Penistone Bell Ringers join national recruitment campaign to honour lives lost in WW1

Calling all bell ringers – past, present and future. The Penistone team is looking for new members to help mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

The recruitment drive is part of a national campaign, Ringing Remembers, which aims to attract 1,400 new and former ringers back to belfries across the country in honour of the 1,400 bell ringers, including two from Penistone, who died on the battlefields of the First World War.

The new ringers will help ring bells all over the country on Sunday November 11 at 12.30pm to mark the centenary of the Armistice. The bells of St John’s in Penistone will be part of that nationwide commemoration.

Penistone tower captain Alan Shelbourn said: “In 1918, the bells were spontaneously rung out in churches across the land when news of the end of the war was announced. For many people in the fields and at work, the joyous pealing of the bells was how they found out the war was over.

“It will be a privilege to join this national event in honour of the 100th anniversary of this moment on Remembrance Sunday. We are a small but dedicated team of bell ringers in Penistone and – with our friends from other churches across the area – we would love more people to join us for this important occasion.”

The team would particularly like to hear from people who have been bell ringers in the past but have drifted away from campanology. Bell ringing is all about technique and, like riding a bike, once you’ve learned how to handle a bell you don’t tend to forget. Existing ringers are always happy to show returnees the ropes and get them back into the swing of it.

One member of Penistone Bell Ringers who returned to ringing after 25 years away, Elizabeth Stocker said: “I was given such a warm welcome when I came back to the bell tower the Christmas before last. With all their support, and after just a little while, all the technique came back to me and I absolutely love being an active ringer again.”

People who would like to try bell ringing for the first time are also warmly invited to get in touch, learn the skill and get involved.

People can just join in the Ringing Remembers commemoration or get involved more too.

Alan said: “We are always looking for new volunteers to keep the Sunday morning tradition of bell ringing alive in Penistone and would love to hear from anyone interested in joining our rota. If people would like to join us for the Armistice Day event – and then think about doing more afterwards that would be great. But no pressure!

“Bell ringing is wonderful physical and mental exercise for all ages. It’s such an uplifting and collaborative joyful activity. Peals of bells ringing out across the hills and valleys are a wonderful part of Britain’s heritage and traditional soundscape.”

As an added significance to the Armistice 100 event, the Penistone church bells were recast and restored in the 1920s through public giving in memory of the deceased in World War One. They are memorial bells.

Church bell ringing is a uniquely British tradition with 5,500 bell towers across the country. The British Isles are home to a distinctive style of bell ringing called ‘change ringing’ which produces a peal of bells, part of our national ‘soundscape’.

Bell ringing marks many rites of passage in our lives including christenings, weddings and funerals. It often forms part of important national celebrations such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Bell ringers have regular competitions, and often come together to ring just for the joy of it.

Although bell towers are commonly in churches, you don’t have to go to church to be a bell ringer. Bell ringers are a friendly, inclusive community with people of all faiths and none. Ringing is open to all ages. The youngest ringer at Penistone is 8 and the oldest is 77.

If you would like to know more about joining in the Ringing Remembers commemoration in Penistone, please contact Alan on 07821 637898 to find out more.

Steph Pollard

01226 766618