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The Purpose

Bells are usually left mouth-down when they are left after ringing because this is a much safer state to leave them in.

Gravity would obviously bring a bell into a "down" state if one was to simply pull the bell off the balance and leave the bell to swing down gradually. However this would result in rope flying everywhere in a dangerous fashion and would also not be very musical! Therefore bells are lowered in a gradual and controlled way by checking the swing on each stroke and coiling the rope as the bell swings less and less rope is used.

The Mechanics

Before starting to lower a bell, first ensure there are no knots in the rope as this will hamper your efforts when coiling the rope. When you're ready, simply pull the bell off and begin ringing normally.

To begin the lower, start catching the handstroke fractionally earlier and work your hands up the rope at backstroke. The aim is to check the swing of the bell slightly at the end of each swing. You may also need to stop pulling quite as hard as you would when the bell is up. Keep checking the handstroke and gradually taking in rope at backstroke to bring the bell below the balancing point.

As your hands get further up the tail end, there will obviously be more rope flapping around below them. Once the extra rope gets to about a foot (30cm) you'll probably want to make a coil so that it doesn't tangle with the rest of the rope (or you!). This is done just after release the handstoke and you have put both hands back on the tail end: keep your upper hand (usually the right) where it is and slide the lower one (usually the left) to the end of the rope. As soon as you get to the end, grip the rope and bring your hand back immediately under the other. This movement needs to be done quickly and smoothly so that you're ready to pull at backstroke by the time the bell reaches the end of its swing.

With the coil in your hands, continue to lower the bell gradually with the extra rope making the coil larger by keeping hold of the very end of the rope. The handstroke will get smaller and smaller until it is only a slight "bob" in the movement. At this point you can stop ringing the handstroke and you can concentrate on the backstroke only.

Once the coil gets so large that it interferes with ringing, it's time to take another coil: keeping hold of the very end with the lower hand and the upper hand between the sally and coil, slide the lower hand down to reduce the size of the coil by half then grip the rope and bring it back to the upper hand to make two coils. Depending on the size of the wheel, you may need to take another coil in the same way.

Finally, when the bell is all the way down your hands should be on the sally as high as you can reach. The bell can the be brought to a halt by checking the swing more and more until it can be stopped.

Lowering in Peal

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