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How is a bell rung?

Calstock Tenor with wheel

Church bells in the British Isles are generally rung by a method known as full-circle ringing. Each bell swings repeatedly in a complete circle, beginning and ending with the mouth upwards, turning first in one direction and then the other. As the bell rotates it is struck by a clapper which swings independently inside the bell. To allow the bell to move it is attached to a metal, or sometimes wooden, headstock which in turn is attached to a wooden wheel; a rope tied to the wheel passes over a number of pulleys down to a ringer fifty or more feet below. The bell-ringer controls the rotation of the bell and the rhythm with which it strikes.

Buckfast Abbey - one bell 'up' and one bell 'down' viewed from above

When bells are not in use they are kept in the 'down' position - the open mouth hangs downwards so that the bell is stable.

The ringer has to swing the bell, gradually increasing the rotation of the wheel until the mouth is upwards, when the bell can be 'set' in a stable position from which it can be rung.


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