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For other uses, see Peal (disambiguation).
Peal board in St Michael and All Angels church, Penkridge recording the first peal on the new bells in 1832

In campanology (bell ringing), a peal is the name given to a specific type of performance of change ringing.

The definition of a peal has changed considerably over the years and was one of the motivating factors in the formation of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in 1891.[1] Currently, for a performance to be recognised as a peal by the Central Council it must consist of sufficient changes (at least 5040 changes on up to seven working bells or 5000 changes on higher numbers), meet a number of other criteria (collectively referred to as the decisions), and be published in The Ringing World.

On typical tower bells a peal takes around three hours to ring; the time depends on several factors including the number of changes and the weight of the bells, which affects the speed of ringing.

In addition to ordinary peals, ringers often ring quarter-peals, which are a quarter of the length of a full peal, making them easier to ring as most quarter-peals take around 45 minutes to complete.

A set of English-style full-circle bells is sometimes erroneously called a peal of bells, but ringers use the term a ring of bells.

Historic meaning[edit]

A peal board recording the details of a long length peal.
Multiple peals on two boards

Originally a peal referred to a set sequence of changes of any length, now often referred to as a touch. A touch being more than a plain course, but not a quarter of full peal. However, the original meaning is still in use today in call-change ringing. The most famous and frequently rung call-change peal, associated with the Devon Association of ringers, is named 60 on 3rds.

Following the invention of the ringing method known as Grandsire Doubles, the term peal or “full peal” was applied to the ringing of sequences including each possible permutation of the set of bells exactly once. On five bells (Doubles), there are 120 permutations taking about four minutes to ring on tower bells. This is arrived at by the calculation 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 = 120 unique permutations. These figures rapidly increase as more bells are added.

The term "extent" is now preferred to peal in this context, excepting performances on seven bells where the terms peal and extent are now synonymous.

The extent on eight bells comprises 40,320 changes, and would be referred to today as a long length peal. Despite this, it has been successfully rung as a continuous performance both on tower and on hand bells, 17 hours in duration on tower bells.

Relationship of extents and peals