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Farewell to tower and handbell ringer - John Nixon

2017 NewsPosted by Roger Pollard Thu, August 03, 2017 18:43:09

In late summer 2015 a new person appeared, without announcement, at a Tuesday night practice. Little did we know then how significant a part of the ringing teams John Nixon would become, nor did we foresee how fond we would all become of him or how soon we would be saying our sad farewells following his death in early July this year. John was a very experienced ringer and brought over 63 years of ringing experience with him. John came that evening to ring tower bells, but by the end of the evening, and after a visit to the pub, we also found out he rang hand bells. So the very next evening, there he was at his first hand bell practice! We were very grateful for his experience and commitment both as a tower bell ringer and as a hand bell ringer.

In just short of two years John supported the teams ringing for Sunday Services, weddings and other community events. One of his greatest pleasures was conducting the “Firing of the Bells” in October 2016 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This enabled John to combine two of his greatest interests; bell ringing and Canal and River Trust involvement. John’s retirement meant he was no longer involved in active church ministry and so he was also able to be a great support to the Hand Bell Team as they often rang during weekday afternoons to entertain people at various local retirement and care homes.

John had a confident and very pleasant character and was never backward in encouraging ringers to push the boundaries of what they were capable of in bell ringing terms. He also very quickly became involved in the social side of bell ringing life, be that tower or hand bells. John’s interests often matched that of other retired male ringers in the tower and their anecdotes of older men misbehaving on various “Industrial Archaeology” jaunts, often entertained us in the pub after ringing practice.

We felt it very fitting that not only did John’s funeral include a fulfilment of his wish for the tenor bell to be rung 79 times as his coffin was brought into All Saints; that is once for each year of his life, but it also included the theme tune from “Last of the Summer Wine”, enabling us to smile and remember the lighter side of our too brief relationship with him. He will be missed and remembered by both the tower and hand bell teams at All Saints.

Clair conducts at the Grassington Rally

2017 NewsPosted by Roger Pollard Tue, June 27, 2017 13:26:48
Our musical director Clair took centre stage at the Grassington Rally when she conducted the massed ringing. Click on the link to see and hear more.

June 2017

2017 NewsPosted by Solna Burnham Wed, June 07, 2017 09:41:07

At the end of May we attended the regional Spring Rally in Grassington. This was a particularly well attended event as it involved the celebration of 40 years of modern handbell ringing in the North East. The region was formed following a rally in Selby in 1977 and many of the original participants were at the celebration.

There were so many people there that we had to share our bells with some ladies from Market Weighton for the massed ringing when everyone rings together. One of these pieces was conducted by our musical director Clair who is fast becoming a regional superstar.

Our performances of our own pieces also went well and congratulations to Renee on her first public outing. She did so well having only been with us for just over a month.

It clearly did not put her off and she performed again with us at the beginning of June when we played for the Silsden friendship group. This is a new club which meets monthly in the building next to the Catholic Church in Silsden. Although many of their members come from the church it is not exclusivly Catholicand there were other people from the locality some of whom were attending their first meeting of the group. I have noticed over the years how many groups there are that meet on an afternoon for a cuppa, chat and some entertainment. There is no excuse for any retired person to say there is nothing for them to do!

Our performance went well with Roger’s compering that he has got down to a fine art. If we need extra time for bell or music changes he has no problem talking on longer! Afterwards a number of the audience joined us to have a go and a very creditable performance of Grandfather’s Clock followed.

Don’t forget anyone who is interested is welcome to visit one of our Monday or Wednesday evening rehearsals in the vestry to see what handbell ringing is all about.

May 2017

2017 NewsPosted by Solna Burnham Wed, May 10, 2017 08:37:45

We have spent April and May preparing for one of the main events of the year – the regional Spring Rally in Grassington.

This event has been hald in the same venue for many years and gives us an opportunity to ring bells together with other groups in what is called massed ringing.

We also prepare and ring two or three pieces on our own which we have practiced over the preceeding weeks. This would all be relatively simple if the whole band intending to attend Grassington were available every week!

However due to holidays, illnesses, work and other unavoidable events this has not been possible and other people have had to stand in at each rehearsal. However slowly it is all coming together and as I write this we are preparing for a final practice.

We have acquired another new member since my last notes, Renee, and she has (as often seems to be the way in our group) been thrown in the deep end. She will be taking part in the rally only a month or so after joining the group! We are still looking for new members – anyone is welcome to visit one of our Monday or Wednesday evening rehearsals in the vestry to see what it is all about.

Solna Burnham
07884 233382

Spring 2017

2017 NewsPosted by Solna Burnham Fri, April 07, 2017 04:09:57

The hand bell ringers have had a busy spring season, with three small concerts using the 2 octave set of bells. As these events often take place during the working day we are very lucky to find at least eight members able to give their time to perform.

Firstly, made a return visit to Crossflatts Over 50’s Club at St Aiden’s Court at the beginning of March. It is always nice to be asked back to a venue, and Crossflatts is a regular engagement for us now.Then a visit to Aire Valley Court on St Patrick’s Day, this was a new venue for us and we were very well received by a large group of residents who were in good voice, and joined the sing along to some of our tunes, appropriately including Oh Danny Boy…..! This was followed by refreshments and a chance for the audience to have a go on the bells.

Finally, another new venue on 4th April when we visited Riddlesden Rest Home and entertained the residents and staff. This was the first performance for Hilary, our most recent recruit. No doubt she was nervous, but it didn’t show and she rang very well after just a handful of practice sessions with us.

Looking ahead we are now preparing for two Handbell Ringers of Great Britain events, at Grassington in May, and Headingley in June. HRGB is 50 years old in 2017 so some special pieces of music have been written for the occasion, we will now concentrate on these pieces at our practice sessions and hopefully perform them later in the year.

As always if anyone is interested in joining the team please contact me for further information.

March News

2017 NewsPosted by Solna Burnham Wed, March 08, 2017 10:58:59

The Art of Handbell Ringing

Yesterday we were given a copy of the book of this name written by an American lady called Nancy Poore Tufts. I have only started dipping into it but already have found a number of words of wisdom which I can see myself quoting in a number of articles over the next few months.

Although the book was published in 1962 (before the birth of our chairperson) many of the words still ring true.

In Chapter VI (Management and Policies of Handbell-Ringing Groups) it suggests that the average handbell leader is a busy person. We are fortunate to have found Clair who joined us only early last year and has taken on this role under the new title of musical director.

The book suggests that she should be ably assisted and relieved of the mechanics of operating the group by a dependable slate of officers.

These include a president or manager (in our case Jane, our chair) who should check on the proper functioning of the other officers (I can vouch for that!) and the care and maintenance of the bells.

There should also be a treasurer who collects our dues and makes collections for special needs of the group. He should keep accounts of all the funds and make regular reports to the membership. This is Roger who until 18 months ago was the only gentlemen in our group. He is very efficient in carrying out all his duties.

Beyond this it is suggested we should have a publicity manager to send notices to the press, broadcasters (are we getting ideas above our station?), fans and sponsors and to maintain a scrap book. I suppose this is much what I as secretary do.

The librarian should be responsible for having proper music at rehearsals and readying it for concerts. This is a duty which has been carried out by various members at different times by different members but now is really the duty of Anne who also acts as our bookings secretary.

This all goes to prove however that even a small group such as us does not run itself. However the final suggestion of a costume manager is a step too far and we do appear to be capable of washing and ironing our own polo shirts!

February News

2017 NewsPosted by Solna Burnham Tue, February 07, 2017 15:26:15

Joint event January 28th 2017

Last year I organised a joint event for Hand and Tower Bell ringers in the region. The event was a success and I was asked to arrange another. I had thought it was going to be a one off!

This time we held the event in the hall adjacent Christ Church,Ossett which although it does to have ringable bells is conveniently situated close to a number of towers and the region's motorway network.

The advantage of doing an event for the second time is that you can learn from your mistakes and successes. The morning gave people the opportunity to learn new skills either tunes or changes (such as we normally ring on tower bells) on handbells. In the afternoon the tower bell ringers visted other towers and handbell ringers tried sight reading together under our own musical director Clair. This was her first experience of conducting a wider group.

However the whole idea of the event was to give everyone to get together, swap experiences and pick each others' brains for advice. It was pleasing to meet so many tower bell ringers who are preparing to set up handbell gropus often with young children.

The whole day was a great success and, although I did most of the organisation, it would not have worked without the assistance of the Biingley Hand and Tower Bell Ringers including those who helped with preparing food, serving and clearing up, advertising, transporting the model bell and generally setting up, particularly over the last couple of days. They will be relieved to know however that it will be a few years before we organise such an event again!

2016 News

2016 NewsPosted by Roger Pollard Wed, January 18, 2017 23:08:46

2016 archived news


The North East Region Autumn Rally took place this year on the 29th October at Brighouse Central Methodist. Only a few of our number (as seen in this photo) were able to attend. is always gratifying when we get asked to return to a venue we have performed at before. That way we feel we must be doing something right!

This October we returned to Wilsden Thursday Group at the village hall almost a year after our previous visit. We rang the three octave set for about 45 minutes and then were able to offer the audience a chance to 'have a go' with us. Quite a few of them took up this offer.

Among us on this occasion was Kathy, a new ringer who joined us after the Heritage week end. She was rather thrown in the deep end due to the work commitments of others and took part in her first concert less than a month after her first attempt on the handbells. Congratulations to Kathy! We hope she has not been put off and is ready for the next event!

If anyone else tried the handbells on the Heritage Weekend and wants to join us on a practice night maybe with a view to becoming a handbell ringer you are very welcome indeed.


We took part in the challenge made by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to open up 500 of England’s bell towers in September. We took advantage of the publicity to not only open the tower, but also put on a display about the history of the Bingley Tower Bells dating back to the 1600s, tell the history of the tower and introduce visitors to some of the bell ringers who have rung the bells over the centuries. We also told the history of hand bells, their rediscovery and restoration over the past 6 years.

A widely publicised handbell taster session was held on Wednesday 7th September when 20 people joined us at our regular handbell practice, A number of them ‘had a go’ at handbell ringing and some also ventured up the tower - having been fortified previously by drinks and nibbles.

The tower was officially opened to visitors on the afternoons of Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September. The weather was kind to us and we had a steady flow of visitors over the three days. Some were local having been attracted by our flyers and others who had heard of the event in the press, on social media or on the radio came from further afield. Because we were one of the few events taking place on the Friday we had our photographs taken and appeared in the weekend edition of the T & A.

People enjoyed the handbell demonstrations and tours of the tower and most had a go either on the training tower bell or at tune ringing on the bells and chimes. Refreshments were provided by the congregation in aid of the Church Path Project which also benefited from the sale of raffle tickets, plants and crafts.

We shall have to wait however to see if the publicity brings forward any new recruits at our practices. Don’t forget though if you missed the week end you are always welcome in the tower on Tuesday evenings or in the vestry for handbells on Mondays or Wednesdays (see diary for dates) even if it is just to see what goes on with no commitment to come back!

Planning, preparation, cleaning, research, displays, practice sessions, banners, balloons and flyers have all been part of our bell ringing activities this month. As Connect 4 readers will have seen last month we are taking part in the Heritage Open Days and are part of the challenge made by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to open up 500 of England’s bell towers this September.

We will be open to visitors between 2pm and 4pm on Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September 2016. This will be an open event for all ages to visit the bell tower, have a go on a mobile bell, see bell ringing demonstrations and have a go at hand bell tune ringing. We intend to put on a display about the history of the Bingley Bells dating back to the 1600s, tell the history of the tower and introduce you to some of the bell ringers who have rung the bells over the centuries. We will also be telling the history of hand bells and their rediscovery and restoration over the past 6 years.

No booking is required, there is no charge for the open day but refreshments will also be on sale in aid of the Church Path Project. Details and flyers about our tower event are available in church. More details about all Heritage Open Days are available on this link: We hope to provide plenty to learn about, to experience and to enjoy even if you have not got the legs to climb the bell tower – so please note the dates and come and join us.

May 2016

For many handbell ringers in our region Spring means Grassington. For more years than we have been ringing the Spring rally and AGM have been held in May in this Dales town.

Each year as we prepare our performance pieces we realise how we have improved and this year ii was particularly so. We played Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz which we had attempted there three years ago with mixed results – this year it went really well.

What was disappointing was that despite having three octaves of bells we only had enough ringers available to ring two octaves. We have lost a number of our stalwart ringers in the last few months and, despite the arrival of John and Clair, we are often struggling to ring all our bells at practices and performances.

We need to attract new ringers and with this in mind are proposing a number of TASTER SESSIONS

Please watch this space - we always welcome people to watch us practice and to join in perhaps with a view to becoming a handbell ringer but these events will be more sociable and geared particularly to potential new recruits young and old.


We often play our handbells at old peoples’ clubs and groups, probably because the bells are relatively simple to transport and we can play a good variety of tunes they know.

Our introductions come around in various ways. Last year the mother of a friend of a bellringer moved to Ashfield - a local authority owned care home in Skipton. Relatives were asked if they could find unusual or new activities and entertainments for their relatives. Hence why our handbell group was suggested. We finally arrived there in April. By then the friend’s mother had passed away but he and his wife still came to watch.

It was a most successful afternoon. There was plenty of space and light for us and the audience joined in many of our pieces. The residents were joined by others from the adjacent day care centre and many members of staff turned up to listen too.

We hope to be invited to play there again........not least because when we finished we were given drinks and beautiful tasty homemade biscuits!


The regional handbell committee came up with the idea of a joint handbell and tower bell event as an opportunity for both types of ringers to find out what the others do. In our handbell team there are 6 of us who do both but our group is the exception rather than the rule.

The event was based around Burley north Leeds where there are three towers in close proximity, a church hall with plenty of room for handbells and a well equipped kitchen. It is also a very central location for those whom we expected to attend.

The original plan was for both groups to do their own thing in the morning and then to meet for a sociable lunch before trying the other. From that point of view it was as great success although there were more handbell ringers than tower bell ringers so the queue in the afternoon to try tower bells was down the stairs. We have had to offer our own group another opportunity to try the Bingley bells! Still Jane our tower captain says she has found some naturals.

Similarly the handbell masterclass provided at least two Bingley tower bell ringers a first try and we know where to look next time we are short for a handbell performance! The only disappointment was that not as many towers brought old distressed bells to the surgery for advice as we had hoped.

My thanks to all from both Bingley teams who helped with the organization and catering - as always the Bingley Belles could not be accused of letting people go hungry!

February 2016

Following our success in obtaining a grant from the Skipton Building Society Grassroots Giving Grant Scheme we started contacting local schools in November and received an immediate reply from Bingley Grammar School asking if we could bring our new chimes in for a group of year 7s.

The only problem than was getting the chimes. There was a considerable delay in supply and so our first visit to the school was not until the first week of January. However although it is early days the children are keen and we are hopeful that they may be able to take part in a school concert towards the end of term. In the meantime we were contacted by Roy from the Skipton who asked us if we could attend and perform at the society’s leadership event at the Harrogate International Centre.

Wow! This was the biggest venue we had ever performed at even if we were only in the lunch venue outside the main hall and there was the added enticement of a free meal! We spruced ourselves up, laundered the table cloths and transported our bells to Harrogate last Friday. We set off in wind and rain, but by the time we arrived the sun had come out to such an extent that we had to move three advertising banners to cover the windows and stop it reflecting off our newly polished bells.

Of course we had to play some pieces using the chimes that the Skipton had so kindly funded as well as other favourites, old and new. We alternated playing over the lunch interval with a group of singers who also won money from Grassroots Giving. We thought we played well and are told that the music floated beautifully down the stairs as people approached. The event was very successful and we hope we played our part in showing members of the Society what it does for the community.

January 2016

Christmas is always our busy season and 2015 was no exception. After the Skipton Building Society recognised us for supporting our local community we are pleased to report that we played at two local nursing homes – Fairmount in Shipley and Wingfield in Bingley.

Two of our members are also members of a rambling club and we entertained their friends at their Christmas Social event. They were able to show their friends that they are people of many talents !

On 14th December we played in the Brown Cow on Ireland Bridge – we were a bit concerned that the customers would be too interested in drinking and chatting so that we would have difficulty being heard. However they allowed us plenty of space and the event appeared to go well with a number of people joining in our Sing a long carols.

Our final event of the year was the All Saints Carol Service where we played before the service and then (a first for us) accompanied Silent Night during the service.

Things are not much quieter for us in January. By the time you read this we will have given our first two lessons on the new hand chimes at Bingley Grammar School and attended the Skipton Building Society Leadership Event in Harrogate.

We then have at least one performance a month booked in over the spring and early summer. These include a hand and tower bell taster day being held at St Matthias Church, Burley, Leeds on 27th February. If anyone is interested in joining us for this please contact us and we will send you further details.

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