Ancient Society of College Youths

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The Ancient Society of College Youths (ASCY) is a change ringing society, founded in 1637 and based in the City of London.[1] The society played a leading role in the early development of change ringing, and today provides ringers for important events at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.[2] Although it is a non-territorial association, its importance is recognised through having four representatives on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.


The Society is said to be founded on 5 November 1637, although it is possible that it was actually in existence before this date. The first Master is noted as Lord William Brereton. The first ringing by the Society was recorded in c.1642 when it managed "a plain six-score on five bells". Robert Roan (Master in 1652) is said to have invented the ringing methods known as Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Minor, which are still rung today. [3]

Fabian Stedman, the author of Campanalogia in 1677, also became steward to the College Youths in that year, and in 1682 he was elected Master of the College Youths.

Copies of historical documents (1637–1974) of the society are held by the National Archives, British Library and London Metropolitan Archives.[4]


Some notable early achievements were:

  • 1684 – 18th Nov Three 720s rung consecutively on the back six bells at Southwark.
  • 1690 – 7th Jan "The whole peal of Plain Bob Triples" believed to have been rung at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.
  • 1725 – 19th Jan The first peal on 12-bells was rung - 5060 Grandsire Cinques at St Bride's, Fleet Street.[5]

The Society was also a pioneer in "long length" peals; the first of these long lengths took place on 18 May 1728, and consisted of 10,080 changes of Plain Bob Major. More recently, three members of the ASCY - Philip Earis, Andrew Tibbetts and David Pipe - have rung the longest peal ever, on handbells, consisting of 72,000 changes of Minor, ringing 100 different methods, all of which had to be memorised, and taking 24 hours and 9 minutes.

The Society also rang the 'extent' (or maximum number of possible permutations in the order of the bells) of Major - 40,320 changes, on 27 December 1977, taking 15 hours, 59 minutes to do so.

Belfry stewardship[edit]

The ASCY is responsible for the bells at:

Its members hold regular practices at these towers, as well as at St Paul's Cathedral, St Mary-le-Bow and Southwark Cathedral.


  1. ^ Dickens, Jr., Charles (1879). "Victorian London - Directories - Dickens's Dictionary of London, by Charles Dickens, Jr., 1879 - "CAB-CHA"". Dickens's Dictionary of London. Retrieved 2012-02-10. Change Ringing is extensively practised in London, where the Ancient Society of College Youths has its headquarters. The Society of College Youths was founded in 1637, by Lord Brereton and Sir Cliff Clifton, for the purpose of promoting the art of change ringing; and the society, having outlived its first youth, prefixed the "Ancient" to their original title. For many years the headquarters of the society was at St. Martin's-in- the-Fields. They are now at St. Saviours, Southwark. There is another society of change ringers in London, called the Cumberland, and practising at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, which probably sprang from the internal dissensions which at one time agitated the older society. The London Scholars who are frequently mentioned in the records of the Ancient College Youths, have become extinct as a change-ringing society. At present, although there is an association of change ringers in almost every town where there is a good peal of bells, the Ancient Society of College Youths is the most important, as it is the most venerable in the kingdom. Its rules are few and simple, and its subscription and expenses low; and for this reason, no doubt, it has gradually attracted more and more members from the working classes. The early list of members contains the names of many Lord Mayors and of more than one member for the City; and Sir Watkin Wynne, Lord Dacre, and the Marquis of Salisbury also figure in the roll. The principal peals of hells in London, besides that newly hung in the belfry of St. Paul's Cathedral, are to be found in the following churches: St. Mary-he-Bow, Cheapside; St. Michaels, Cornhill; St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames-street; St Matthew, Bethnal Green; St. Saviour's Southwark; St. Brides's Fleet-st; St.Martin's-in-Fields. 
  2. ^ "History of bell ringing". Discover Bellringing. Retrieved 13 June 2016. 
  3. ^ Change Ringing - The History of an English Art. Vol 1, P56. General Editor J Sanderson.
  4. ^ "Ancient Society of College Youths, bell ringers, London". The National Archives. Retrieved 24 June 2016.  Records of the Ancient Society of College Youths, including membership books, peal books, minutes, and notes on the history of the Society.
  5. ^ Retrieved from the ASCY website - April 2017

External links[edit]