Bell ringing at Holy Trinity

Change Ringing is one the oldest English arts that is still performed and enjoyed by thousands of people, week in and week out, as it has been for hundreds of years. As for many pastimes and hobbies, there is much more to it than meets the eye! 

Although it requires the development of substantial skill to control the tolling of a bell that may weigh up to several tons to within a small fraction of a second, it can be mastered by anyone who has the will to learn, and who enjoys working as part of a dedicated team.

No prior musical experience in necessary, and you will learn how to ring with a group of people with a wide range of bell ringing experience, coming from all walks of life. You are never too old to start to learn, and children may start as young as nine or ten years old.

There are six bells at Ashford tuned and hung for change ringing. Two date back to 1612, one 1750, one 1939 and then two further bells were added in 1966. The oldest three of these were recast in 1954.

The seventh and oldest of the Ashford bells, not designed for full-circle ringing, is chimed during the Eucharist Worship Service. This bell is known as the Sanctus Bell, or  “pancake bell”. Until relatively recently the curfew – known locally as “pilto” – was rung from the church tower at 8 o’clock every evening from Guy Fawkes Day to Shrove Tuesday when the pancake bell was rung at 11.00 am.

The bell also used to be rung as the congregation left the church after Sunday morning service to warn maids that it was time to “get the puddings out of the oven.”

Although an ancient tradition, change ringing (or the “exercise” as it is sometimes called) has at Ashford recently been brought into the 21st century with the addition of a computerised simulator system that allows ringers to practice using recorded bell sounds played by a computer, and that also allows one person to ring while the simulator “rings” all the other bells.

This makes practising possible when we don’t have a complete team. In addition, remotely-controlled shutters can be moved into place over the tower windows to protect the belfry from the elements, or to reduce the external sound level when the bells are being rung normally. However, the bells are always heard in their full glory during our regular weekly rehearsals, before Sunday services, and on special occasions.

Members of the Ashford change ringing band frequently ring for Sunday services, weddings, funerals and other civic and religious festivals at other churches in our mission and ministry area and beyond, and ringers from other towers frequently support us for our ringing needs at Ashford.

We make frequent trips to more distant churches and are delighted to welcome other ringers to Ashford, including (as is a bell ringers’ custom) those who are holidaying in the area and who drop by to join us on our practice night.

We are extremely fortunate to have a number of very talented and willing expert ringers who patiently spend countless hours of their free time teaching ringers not only from Ashford, but also from other local towers. As a result of this expert tuition, in May 2009 the Ashford band won the Derby Diocesan Arthur Ashby Call Change striking competition.

For further information, anecdotes and history about the bells of Holy Trinity Church, please see the article that appeared in the September 2021 issue of ‘Peak Bells’, the newsletter of the Peak District Bell Ringers.

There is always a warm welcome for new ringers – young or old, novice or expert!

Practice Night: Tuesdays at 7.00 pm.

For further information, please contact Linda Pelc at (01629) 815 280 or