The world’s first purpose-built bellringing Teaching Centre
The world’s first purpose-built Teaching Centre is housed in the Clock Room of the Cathedral’s tower. It is a unique resource available for everyone to use.
Church bells the largest musical instruments; and, unlike other musicians, bellringers cannot see the instruments upon which we perform. New bellringers can see our dumbbells working and visually relate how the rope’s movement relates to the bell’s rotation. This visual contact helps explain how a bell ‘feels’ – for example ‘holding a bell on the balance’.
The Teaching Centre comprises eight dumbbells which physically replicate bells which weigh about five hundredweight. The bells are grouped in pairs and work with Abel software connected by a magic box designed by David Bagley.
The dumbbells can be used for a variety of purposes ranging from learning to handle a bell to ringing the most advanced methods. They are ideal for teaching bell handling skills. Each dumbbell has a special stay mechanism which can be reset in minutes. The anxiety of the broken stay is taken away for the pupil and the teacher.
Once a new ringer is ‘road safe’ they can practise for as long as they like on their own or with others. The Abel software provides a perfect ringing environment. It doesn’t go wrong and if you do, all you have to do is start again! All you do is put on the headphones and listen. The dumbbells won’t teach you ropesight (an overrated skill); however your listening skills will dramatically improve. Ringing is an aural activity. We use the teaching process ‘feel, hear, see’.
The dumbbells can be also used as a ring of eight (or less) with the sound played over speakers. We have a variety of sound files you can play with. Another option is to ring any method with up to eight people. Abel and the laptops do the rest for you. All you do is join in.
Our Teaching Centre is a play pit. It’s most important advantage is giving everyone ‘rope time’ with the opportunity to ring with ‘perfect’ ringers.
The Teaching Centre is available for use by everybody (provided at least one person in a group is an experienced bellringing teacher). You can use it while the Cathedral is open 0730 to 1800 Monday to Friday or in the evenings by arrangement.
It is used by the Cathedral’s bellringers every Monday night between 1830 and 1930. If you would like to see it and find out more please contact the secretary of the Cathedral Guild using the contact form below.
For specially arranged visits it costs £5 per person. All donations contribute to our teaching enterprise.
An extract from “Bells in the City”, the short film promoting bellringing from Worcester Cathedral. The DVD is available to purchase in our online shop.
The eight dumbbells are housed in pairs and hang in purpose built cages. These cages are strapped to the timberwork of the ‘wigwam’ – the internal timber sub frame which supports the ringing bells.
The dumbbells wheels are five feet in diameter and are ‘weighted’ using railway bed plates. The dumbbells feel like real bells which weigh about five hundredweight. The stays are designed to be reset in minutes. When the bell reached the balance point. A metal rod engages with a rope hoop which is secured by plastic ball in a metal spring socket. If you pull too hard and the socket releases the rope and the bell goes over. Just like a real broken stay. However, our stays can be reset in minutes.
The dumbbells were designed by Worcester Cathedral’s Bellringers and built by Jim Wheeler at NDS Engineering at Clifton on Teme. The wheels were built by Chris Phillips. The scheme was more ‘evolutionary’ than ‘project-based’. Our ideas developed as we learnt how useful these teaching aids are for ringers of all abilities. We started with two dumbbells and quickly added six more as demand increased. The project cost £35,000 and the money was raised by the Cathedral’s bellringers.
Each dumbbell is connected to a laptop and connected to the ringer via headphones. This means eight ringers can be learning different things at the same time. The magic box which manages the signals from each dumbbell was built by David Bagley. A light sensor on each wheel sends a signal which equates to the clapper hitting the bell. These signals interface with the Abel software.
Or the dumbbells can used as a ‘real’ ring of bells using the speakers positioned the tower walls. The Teaching centre can be used in all sorts of ways to meet the needs of new or very experienced bellringers.