Church to use virtual silent bells to avoid disturbance

Tue 27 Feb 2018
By Tola Mbakwe

A church in Cumbria has found a new way to practise bell ringing without disturbing nearby residents.

Thanks to a £3,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, St James' Church in Barrow-in-Furness will start using an eight bell digital simulator which will allow trainee bell ringers to ring the church's bells without making a sound.

The software allows the bells to be heard through headphones or speakers. During the training session, the bell's clappers are stationary so that they do not hit the bells.

Louise Sutherland from the Hertiage Lottery Fund said: "The bell ringing simulator is as you might expect, it simulates ringing bells in a group, so that you can learn as a single person without the need for a full set of eight ringers.  It also means that you can do it silently whilst still getting a full bellringing experience – ie pulling the ropes and feeling the weight of the bells.

"It’s done in front of a computer screen – a bit like Guitar Hero if you’ve seen that, where you see the other 'ringers' pull their bells and you have to time yourself to fit in with them." 


Andrew Pollock, the church's tower captain said he's thrilled to "offer better facilities for people across the Furness area to learn and preserve this amazing skill for generations to come".

He told Premier that the bells at Barrow will continue to be rung as normal for regular practices though.
"The individual characteristics of each bell makes it important to practice on ‘open’ bells where the clapper strikes the bell and the bells are heard outside. There are other reasons to practice on the ‘open’ bells too, so we will continue to practice once a week without the simulator, and the simulator compliments rather than replaces the normal ringing," Pollock said.

"The simulator opens up lots of opportunities to accelerate learning by allowing us to ring more often and for longer, with the bells silenced in consideration of the residents living immediately around the church. This will help recruit and preserve bell ringing as part of our living heritage for years and generations to come." 

Many churches across the country have faced the possibility of having to silence their bells altogether due to noise complaints from residents.

However, last month the Telegraph reported the government ministers have planned an official guidance to protect churches from having tighter restriction on bell ringing.

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