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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. The bells must therefore be raised at the start of a practice or other piece of ringing and then lowered afterwards.

Due to their weight, it is obviously not possible simply to pull hard on the rope to turn the bell upside down. Instead the ringer will swing the bell in gradually increasing circles until it is in an upright position and can be rested on the Stay. The bell is now said to have gone from being "Down" (and relatively safe) to being "Up" (and potentially dangerous).

The Mechanics

The golden rule of raising a bell is to first check that it is in fact down! This may sound slightly silly but there is no visible difference in the ringing room between a bell that is up and one that is down. However, there is a very big difference between what would happen if you were to pull on the rope of a bell that is down to one that is up: if the bell is down the bell will simply swing harmlessly; if the bell is up it will be pull off it's balance and swing the bell full-circle taking the rope up. The consequence to the unsuspecting ringer will obviously depend on how quick a reaction they have, however it is certainly a situation to avoid!

The first step in raising a bell is to first hold the rope as you would usually do for ringing and give the sally a gentle exploratory tug. If there is little resistance and the rope bobs up and down then you know that the bell is down; if the bell doesn't want to move at all then there is a good chance that it is up. If you suspect a bell to be up it is always best to get a more experienced ringer to check it for you.

To raise a bell, the ringer starts with the rope coiled in the hand they usually hold the tail end (usually the left). The number of coils to make will vary but will usually be about three evenly sized loops that are not too small that they trap the hand but not too big that they would flap around too much.

Once they're sure the bell is down, the ringer holds the coils and then grips the sally as they would when they ring the bell when it is up. They start by giving the sally short sharp tugs to begin the bell swinging. At the beginning of each swing they give an extra pull to increase it's swing. This will also increase the amount of rope that the bell will wrap up the wheel. The ringer therefore must allow a small amount of rope to be pulled from the coil each time the bell reaches the top of it's swing, otherwise the rope will check the bells swing and, no matter how hard they pull, the bell will not rise any further. As the bell's swing increases and more rope is taken from the coil, the ringer will need to let each loop of the coil go and start the next one. This can be the most tricky part of raising for a learner as it requires some practice to confidently release one coil whilst holding onto the remain ones.

Another thing to notice as the bell rises, is the emergence of the Handstroke. When the bell is down, the rope connects to the wheel about two-thirds of the way up the wheel (at about 2 o'clock on it's circle) and feeds around it through the floor to the ringing room. Once the bell is swinging to the point where the eyelet through which the rope is connected to the wheel goes beyond the hole in the floor, it will cause the rope to stop descending and start coming up again. When raising a bell this is visible first a slight linger in the length of time the sally stays down; as the bell rises it then becomes a slight bob which grows to become the handstroke.

Up until this point, the ringer is still holding the rope with both hands as they would a backstroke. However once the handstroke has grown enough to be able to pull on, they should take their non-backstroke hand (usually their right) and give short tugs on the sally. This allows them to give some extra effort on the bell's raise. To begin with the handstroke will only be small enough to give is quick tugs, but as it grows the ringer can give it a fuller pull. Finally, once the bell is nearing the top and the ringer has got rid of all of the coils, they can put both hands on the sally and begin to ring in the normal manner.

Caution should be made when nearing the end of the raise and the stay is close to coming against the slider; the ringer must ease off on the effort they are putting in and, once the bell gets over the balance point, rest it gently on the stay. It is easy for a novice to continue pulling with the same force and end up bumping the stay.

Raising in Peal

Raising the bells ready for ringing can be done individually is achieved in a more musical way by ringing them up "in peal": in other words ringing them up together in rounds. This requires the ringers to ascend at the same pace and to keep their bell sounding between the bells either side of them: not an easy thing to do!

Usually the person with the most difficult task when raising in peal is the treble ringer: they control the speed at which the bells go up. There are two methods of starting a raise: Bristol-style and Devon-style. With the Bristol-style, the treble chimes first; then on the next swing, the second rings; then the third; and so on until all the bells are sounding. With a Devon-style raise, all the bells aim to chime on the third swing. The Devon-style is much more difficult, and often impossible, on heavier rings therefore the Bristol-style raise is the usual convention.

As the bells go up, the treble ringer attempts to keep their bell behind the tenor. Therefore although the treble is the lead bell, it is actually the tenor that should have the biggest influence over the speed of which the bells go up. (This is logical because they have the biggest bell to pull up!) Generally, the treble ringer should aim to raise the bells quickly for the first part until the clappers are striking on both sides (hand and back); then they should complete the rest of the distance at a slower pace to give the larger bells chance to keep up.

The main things to remember when you are ringing up in peal are:

If you are too close to the bell in front, this means that your bell is lower than the other bell because it takes less time for it to swing. You should therefore temporarily increase the amount you pull on the rope until the gap increases.

If you are too far away from the bell in front, this means that your bell is higher than the other bell because it takes longer to swing. The best solution to this is to stop raising the bell any further and wait for the rest of the band to come up to you. This is usually better than bringing your bell down again because you will often find that you descend too far as the bells around you continue to rise!

The two rules above are worth considering carefully and understanding fully as they may seem contrary to one's natural reaction. For example, when drifting away from the bell in front, many people incorrectly decide that they need to pull harder and make the opposite correction than is necessary!

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