Full circle ringing

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One of the bells in Guildford Cathedral hung for full circle ringing. This bell is attached to a cast iron headstock and fitted with a wooden stay and slider mechanism. The bell rope passes through the garter hole in the wheel at the one-o'clock position giving an asymmetrical up and down movement as the wheel rotates through 360 degrees and back again.

Full circle ringing is a method of ringing large bells where the bell is swung a complete circle from resting mouth uppermost around to mouth uppermost. Apart from portable mini rings, the bells range from a few hundredweight (100 kg) up to a few tons (4,000 kg) and are usually mounted in towers, most commonly associated with churches.


The bell is attached to a headstock, historically made of wood but now more often steel. This has to withstand the dynamic force of the bell as it swings, up to three times its static weight. At each end of the headstock are trunnions or bearing pins which are located in bearings in the gudgeons attached to the frame. Modern bell frames are of steel, though wood was used in earlier times. The frame is rigidly attached to the fabric of the tower.

Within the bell is a rigid clapper which is constrained to swing to and fro. The clapper consists of a solid shaft, (wood, iron or steel) a clapper ball (wrought iron or steel) and a flight. The size of the flight determines the rate at which the clapper swings, and therefore the point at which it strikes the bell.

Bells are normally left mouth down. Before ringing the bells are swung in increasing arcs until the bell is brought to rest with the mouth uppermost. When the ringer desires to make a stroke the bell is swung around a full circle, the clapper striking once.


English style[edit]

Attached to the headstock is a wheel (known as a cartwheel) with shrouds which are wooden guide pieces. A rope passes up from the ringing chamber below, through the ground pulley and around the wheel. The ringer can pull the rope to start the bell swinging, and then restrain the rope as the bell rises to its resting position. On the other side of the headstock is a wooden rod or stay which allows the bell to be set or rested mouth uppermost. The stay is an intentional weak point, it will break before damage can be done to the bearings if the bell is allowed to get out of control. The bell can actually swing about 370° due to the action of a slider or hastings stay.

At East Bergholt there is an unusual bell cage where the bells are rung by the ringers standing beside the bell and pulling on the headstock directly.

Bells hung in this fashion are used for Change ringing.


Veronese bells are rung with a wheel and rope, but do not have stays. The bells often swing outside the towers and so the clappers are wired in case of breakages. The bells are usually at the top of high towers and are rung from the ground floor, so most of the rope is steel as is the wheel.

The Veronese bellringing art consists of slow moving pieces of music called by a Maestro.


Bolognese bells have neither stay nor wheel, but in place of the wheel is an A-frame. The ringers are distributed below and among the bells, pulling on the A-frame either with their hands or by ropes. During the raise of the bells the ringers may stand on the large wooden headstocks to impart the necessary force.

The Bolognese bell ringing art consists of prearranged methods rung at a rate of change similar to English call changes.

See also[edit]