Commemorative Ringing


Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a suggestion was made in the correspondence columns of The Ringing World that the Central Council should publish advice on the various forms of commemorative ringing and the circumstances in which they are appropriate. The Hon. Secretary of the Council invited readers for information on this topic and on current local customs. The following notes and suggestions were compiled with the help of the responses received. It was stressed that they were offered as suggestions only; they were not intended in any way to replace local customs.

  1. Before any form of commemorative ringing takes place, the local incumbent should be consulted as to its nature and timing.
  2. Commemorative ringing is normally undertaken with the bells half-muffled, open at handstroke. As a general rule, odd-bell methods should be rung (ie. with the tenor behind). In some places it is the custom to leave the tenor unmuffled. This can be effective, and is particularly appropriate if half-muffled ringing is to take place after a funeral service prior to which the tenor is to be tolled (see 4. below).
  3. The effect of half-muffled ringing, with or without the tenor muffled, can be enhanced by:
    • the 'whole pull and stand' style, in which a whole pull of rounds is followed by a whole pull on the tenor alone, repeated a number of times (ie: 123456, 123456, 6, 6,123456, 123456, 6, 6, etc.);
    • at the end of the ringing, setting one bell at a time from the front, thus gradually reducing the numbers of bells ringing until the tenor is ringing alone; and
    • method ringing in whole pulls, provided that the band is sufficiently competent to do this without error.
  4. Many ringers feel that the tolling of a single bell (the tenor or a bourdon bell) for a period before the funeral or memorial service, at the church where the service is taking place, is very effective and is more appropriate at this time than muffled ringing, which could take place after the service. The single bell should not be muffled and should be rung slowly at intervals of, say, 30 seconds or one minute.
  5. Fully muffled ringing is very rare and should be undertaken, if at all, only on the death of the sovereign or of someone of oustanding local importance.
  6. The custom of ringing half-muffled on Remembrance Sunday is widely practised.
  7. Muffled ringing on other Sundays during a period of national or local mourning is approved by some clergy, but not by others. The advice of the incumbent must be taken on this point.
  8. Practices are best avoided when the bells are muffled. If a practice is to be held during a period of national or local mourning, it may be better to cancel it. If in doubt, the incumbent should decide.
  9. In some places it is the custom on New Year's Eve to ring the bells half-muffled up to midnight and open thereafter.
  10. Muffled ringing must be well-struck to be effective. Thus whatever form of muffled ringing is undertaken it should be well within the capabilities of the band; 3. and 4. above in particular require good bell control by all concerned.
  11. The effect of muffled ringing, however well-struck, is spoilt if a muffle becomes loose and any of the bells begin to strike open. Every effort should be made to ensure that muffles are securely fastened to the clappers and will not move in the course of ringing.
  12. For safety reasons, muffles should not be fitted or removed while bells are up.

Any comments on this advice or information about local customs would be welcome, and should be sent to the Editor of The Ringing World or to the Hon. Secretary of the Council.


Derived from an article published in The Ringing World 4570 (27/12/98)/ 1154