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Young Bell Ringers

Reproduced by kind permission of the Surrey Mirror

A JOYOUS peal ringing out into the night signals the start of another practice.

But this church tower holds more than just bells, it is the venue if a well kept secret. They arrive slowly at first and then, suddenly the group for the night is complete. The secret is young people. A lot of them.

Bellringing has long been associated with older people, but one tower captain has been working hard to buck that trend. Frances Clementi, has been encouraging a new raft of youngsters to take part in ringing. As a result of her efforts, there are several young people who regularly and enthusiastically attend Friday night practices.

Young bell ringers

Frances said: "A lot of towers don't encourage young people because they don't want the hassle of it all, but we love having them around and we try to encourage as many young people as possible." Her success was marked when a 17 year old was appointed as the new ringing master of St. Mary's in Caterham last year.

Ross Weddell, now 18, of Fairbourne Lane, Caterham, began ringing at the tender age of 11 and has never looked back. Ross said: "I was invited to go on a training course on bell ringing, which was something I had never heard of before. I met some incredibly friendly people, who always seemed interested in you and tried to help improve your skills which you can use in towers wherever you go in the country."

Ross will be putting this to the test in a few weeks when he heads off to university in Bristol to study Chemical physics. Ross said: "I will definitely be ringing in Bristol, at least twice a week if not more. I will join up with the university society and practice with them as well as going to other towers in the area as and when I can. That is one of the great things about ringing, I can literally turn up to any of the towers, identify myself as a ringer and instantly make a new group of friends."

Ross explained his role of Ringing Master means he decides what is going to be rung and who will take part. He must try and make sure everyone gets a go and everyone is progressing week on week.

Ross is not on his own as a youngster taking up bellringing. The youngest ringer at Friday's practice was James Goodship, aged just seven, he has only recently picked up his first bell.

Frances Clementi said: "It is unusual to let someone so young ring, we would normally say the age to start is about 10 but James is being taught by his dad who is a very talented ringer."

Friends Sarah Phillips, 15, and Heather Griffiths, 16, both go to Oxted School and regularly ring on a Friday evening. Sarah has been ringing for four years and Heather has been ringing for six. Sarah, of Peter Avenue, Oxted, said: "Heather told me about it and invited me along. "There are quite a few younger people here and I've made a lot of friends doing it."

Heather, a fourth generation ringer, said: "I ring at Oxted as well as here and I also go to Godstone sometimes. "There is something for everyone and you are always learning something new, it's a great way to meet new people."

Lucy Cadman

Surrey Mirror

St. Mary's Bell Ringers are always keen to teach young ringers (aged 11 upwards) - for more information please contact Frances Clementi: 0208 660 3818 or        

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