January 2021 Update
Nine of Stowmarket’s new peal of ten bells (a combination of six of the bells we had before and four new ones cast for us), have now been tuned, with our ancient bell from 1450 being too historically important to be altered. The bells are tuned not only to make each sound as good as possible and sound well together but also to be in harmony with our oldest bell.
Church bells each have a different main note and also have a range of five other notes, in a simple musical relationship which gives the bell its resonant sound. Each bell is tuned to make these individual notes sound out pure and clear. The process of tuning a bell involves thin layers of bronze from the inside of the bell being shaved off, showing rings of bright metal as the surface disappears (you can see what this looks like in the photograph above, kindly provided by Whites of Appleton). Computer monitoring and controls mean that tuning can be very precise, one of the many ways that IT is helping the ancient art of bell ringing.
Computers and mathematics have a close relationship with Bellringing. For much of 2020 we have been remembering the methods (the equivalent of tunes) by using computer programmes which allow us to ring virtual bells at the press of a button, either with other people or alone. There are even apps for mobile phones to practice and learn new things. The methods we ring themselves are heavily based on mathematics and composers of new methods need to be very good at understanding patterns of numbers. There was a recent lecture about the links between mathematics and bellringing which you can watch at https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/maths-bellringing
Our Progress in 2020:
- The bells were lowered and the old frame and belfry floor were dismantled
- 4 new bells have been cast (the extra 2 and replacements for 2 bells which could not be reused)
- All 10 bells have been tuned
- A new floor has been installed
- Recesses have been cut into the tower walls to support the new frame
- New sound control has been fitted.
Looking forward to 2021:
- The new frame will be manufactured
- The bells and frame will be delivered to Stowmarket
- All the parts will be put together in the tower, like a very large and complicated Meccano set
- Once the ropes and other fittings are installed, and COVID-19 allows us to, we’ll let the bells ring out again.