Attempts to set new bell-ringing record - 17th October 2009 & 16th October 2010

Sadly both attempts failed after 7hrs 15mins and 4hrs 15mins respectively

but hopefully they will try again sometime in the future!


The bells of St Thomas’ church will ring out on Saturday 17 October in an attempt to set a new world record. A team of 8 ringers will be aiming to ring a peal of over 14,000 changes, which will involve close to 9 hours continuous ringing.

Organised by Martin Whiteley from Bedford, the team will include ringers from Nottingham, Oxford, Bedfordshire and Hampshire, together with a one of our own local ringers, George Campling.

St Thomas’ has been chosen for the record attempt on account of the excellent tonal quality of our bells, which are widely regarded as one of the finest peals of 8 bells in the country. It is an honour for the church and the village generally and the event has the full support of the Parochial Church Council and other organisations within the village. We receive a lot of positive feedback about the bells from people within the village and it would appear that their sound is generally appreciated and enjoyed. We do recognise however that not everyone necessarily shares that view and, prior to this record attempt, we have therefore consulted the Local Authority Environmental Health Department to ensure that, as a ‘one-off’, nine hours continuous ringing would not be considered in any way unreasonable. They are in full support and share our view that this would be an honour for the church and the village. 

Over the years, our bells have regularly been rung for 3 hour peals (5,000 changes) and we have often received favourable comments from parishioners about these performances. The last 3-hour peal was in July and the next one will be not be until December, as we felt that we should leave an extended interval before and after the record attempt on 17 October.

In the introduction to this note we used the word ‘attempt’ and, for the ringers, this is the key to the challenge they have set themselves. For this peal to be accepted as a record by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers it needs to meet a number of important criteria and success is by no means guaranteed. The ringers obviously have to be able to rise to the physical challenge of ringing the bells continuously for nine hours, but they have also to be able to execute the pattern of changes (or ‘method’ as it is known) throughout that period, to ensure that the 14,000 changes are rung correctly, with the 8 bells ringing in a different order each time. To ensure the correctness of the ringing, a team of umpires will be present, taking turns to observe and check the ringing within the bell tower throughout the performance. The chief umpire will be Richard Parker from Burnley. Richard is particularly well-qualified to take on this role, as he was the leader of the team who set the record which is being challenged. This record has stood for over forty years, having been set on the bells of St James’ Church, Accrington on 6 January 1968.

If successful, the peal on 17 October will not be the first record to be established on the bells of St Thomas. Back in 1927, the longest peal in the method known as "Oxford Treble Bob Major" was rung on our bells: 17,824 changes, which took 10 hours 51 minutes to complete. This achievement is recorded on a tablet inside the bell tower. This particular record still stands and may well continue to do so for many more years to come. The following year, 1928, saw a similar team of ringers return to St Thomas’ to attempt an even longer peal, 22,096 changes, but this unfortunately came to grief, apparently through physical exhaustion, after 10 and half hours. There has been no further attempt to ring a long peal at St Thomas’ in the intervening 80 years and when we received the request for the attempt on 17 October, we were very happy that our bells had once again been selected by some of the country’s leading exponents of change-ringing to further extend the frontiers of their art, just as their predecessors did over 80 years ago.

The method to be rung on 17 October is "Glasgow Surprise Major". This was first rung in 1946 and, whilst it has become popular with change ringers over recent years, it remains challenging to ring correctly on account of its complexity. The requirement for all of the changes rung to be different means that, in this particular method, the record of 12,096 changes established in 1968 was until recently thought to be the maximum possible. However, after many years’ work and more recently with the assistance of a computer programme, a well-known change-ringing composer from London, Brian Price, has recently produced the peal of 14,688 changes which will be attempted on 17 October.

We plan to have the church open to visitors on the day from approx 10.00am, when the ringing is scheduled to commence, and, whilst it will not be possible for people to ascend the tower to see the ringers in action, we would be pleased to see anyone who would like to drop in for a chat and some refreshments during the day.

We are also always looking for new recruits to help continue the tradition of change-ringing on our bells and we would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to learn to ring.

Together with the Parochial Church Council, we felt that it was important to produce this brief information note in order to explain the background to this event. We hope that you find the information useful and of interest and that you will join with us in wishing the ringers success with their endeavours on 17 October.