19th September 2022
During the period of mourning for the Queen, the bells are rung fully muffled.
Hear ringing from the day of the Queen's funeral:
24th June 2022
Steeple Aston entered teams into the methods section and changes section of the 2022 Striking Competition in Horley and came first in both categories.
4th June 2022
A quarter peal was rung to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee weekend with further ringing later in the day.
A quarter peal was rung to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. See more...
The year started with the continued lock down. The church was closed to services so there was no Sunday ringing and no Tuesday practices. Tuesday practice nights finally restarted at the end of July and we were all glad to get back to some sort of normality. I was pleased Jack and Lewis have returned, and Lewis has made great progress over the last few weeks. Fiona McLoone has joined us and is now ringing on her own. Since his move to Steeple Aston Joe Burchell has returned to ringing and is a great addition to our team. It is pleasing that the visitors who used to join us have returned, their help is greatly appreciated.
We held a Tower BBQ in July and over twenty people attended in our garden. The Branch held a Saturday morning practice at Steeple followed by lunch in the Red Lion. This was very popular.
Malcolm tolled the tenor on the day HRH Prince Philip died and it was tolled again half muffled for 20 minutes on the day of his funeral. Christmas ringing was curtailed this year due to fewer services and there were only 6 ringers on Christmas Day morning. We also rang in the New Year again at midnight, with drinks and nibbles in the Tower.
The big event this year was installing the replacement 3rd bell. On Friday evening,16th April, Lawrence, Jack and I spent a couple of hours dismantling the old bell and putting up lifting gear. The next day we gathered again and were joined by Nick and Keith to open up floors and lower the old 3rd bell to the clock room. A small group gathered to witness the bell go up. Eileen kindly provided coffee and cakes and Nigel Francis came and took lots of photos. The Rector blessed the bell and said a prayer. At 10am the bell was lifted up into the Tower, and installed. By 12noon all the floors were back in place and the bell was tried out. Unfortunately, due to the lock down, it was a few weeks before we could ring the bell with all the others to hear how well it fitted in.
I hope others think it was worth all the effort.
There was general agreement on this. Malcolm enquired about the old 3rd bell. It is currently in the clock chamber and the plan is to display it in the church alongside other historic items in due course. We will clean the Tower in the Spring.
Other Tower dates included tolling the bell on the anniversary of the first lockdown, which was 23rd March, the Marie Curie Day of Reflection. Service ringing resumed on 6th June and practices on 27th July. On 6th August we welcomed the first team of visiting ringers since 3rd August 2019. There were two weddings in September, the first since July 2019. We hosted the advanced practice for branch members on 14th October and rang a quarter peal on 22nd in memory of Graham’s and Nick’s parents who sadly died during the pandemic.
As members of the Banbury Branch, Graham being the current ringing master, there was the opportunity to join the Zoom AGM in April. In September, it was our Branch’s turn to host the Guild ringing day, and on 28th many of us attended the very sad funeral at Great Tew of our Chairman, Sue Burchell, who had been about to move into Steeple Aston. In October, we were able to ring at Great Tew and then go on to Sandford for the half-yearly meeting with tea and cakes. In December the Carol Service was held at Bodicote.
What a joy it’s been to be able to ring the handbells once more door to door around the two villages. Many people were pleased to see us and I feel this has been reflected in the super amount we collected this year, a wonderful total of £1662.10. This is £200 more than the previous two collections. I think our choice of Oxfordshire Mind proved to be a popular one too as so many people have been affected mentally by the pandemic.
We began our practice nights at the end of October having lost Bridget Lewis, Lily Brewer and Poppy Howard but we gained two new recruits in Eliza Webster and Alex Tabb. We also welcomed back Charlotte Clarke who picked up the bells and played as though she’d never been away. This made a total of 21 in the team, made up of 15 accomplished ringers and 6 youngsters learning, so working out the rota this year was relatively straightforward.
Ringing began with a team playing for a Christening Party at Middle Aston House and on Sunday 12th December we started our tour of Steeple Aston. This also being the night of the Wassail Evening the younger members of the team entertained the Wassailers with some Carols in the Village Hall. We had made the decision to offer our services, to entertain with the bells on Christmas Eve, to anyone in the two villages having a family/friends gathering, which I advertised in SAL. Three families approached me asking for slots of about 15-20 minutes each. It proved to be a successful and lucrative idea, so something we’ll try again next year.
Vicky Clifton reported to me that the tour of Middle Aston went extremely well. She had informed the inhabitants of the date the ringers would be coming via their village website and therefore knowing when to expect them, the villagers had money, cakes and biscuits at the ready. Being very fond of cakes and biscuits myself, I think this is certainly something we can try in Steeple Aston, so I will endeavour to remember to put a message out every morning as to our whereabouts for each evening.
On Sunday 30th January we gathered at my house to count up the money collected. This was overdue because of the increase in the covid infection rates and just 10 of us attended that night. My grateful thanks as ever go to Diana for the use of her house as our meeting point and for printing out the slips we post through the doors of non-responders informing them of our collecting tin in the shop. Also to Dorothy for printing the labels on the buckets and Graham for maintaining and polishing the bells. Lastly a big thank you to all the ringers, Graham, Dorothy and Vicky Clifton, Diana Gardner, Lawrence White, Nick Powell, Charlotte Clarke, Pam, Jack and Lewis Knowles, Hannah and Rebecca McLoone, Cath Cooper, Helen, Cooper and Edie Arlett, Holly and Daniel Viner, Eliza Webster, Alex Tabb and 2 helpers Mary Rushworth and Freya Smith.
Graham recalled that the handbell ringers had also rung for the Branch carol service, and Dorothy suggested that due to the mild weather more people had been willing to stand out on their doorsteps to listen to the bells. There are many newcomers to the village who seemed pleased to see us. As our funds are in a very healthy position it was agreed that we would like to send the £1662 to Oxfordshire Mind. Sally was congratulated on organising and leading such a successful venture
Following on from Graham Clifton's invitation in SAL for new people to join the Steeple Aston bell ringers, I thought it would be useful to share my experience of learning to ring.
First let’s dispel some myths: You do not need to be strong, most of our bells can be rung by a child (our current youngest ringer is 12 years old) and there is no swinging from ropes in the rafters. You don't need to be mathematical, though counting to eight is useful. Finally, ringing doesn't require any great musical skill. There is no sheet music, you play only one note, and the only rhythm that we are aiming for is uniform separation. You might think from this introduction that there is little to learn and you will have it mastered in a couple of weeks. I assure you that is not the case.
The first thing that you learn is to pull the rope. That sounds easy but it will take more practice than you expect. It is a two-step action pulling the Sally (fluffy bit) first and then the Tail (end of the rope). Pull too hard and the bell bounces at the end of its swing, too gently and it doesn't swing far enough and returns before you tell it to. Once you are confident, you join the other ringers in a circle, learning not to overtake the person ahead of you or slow down and cause a traffic jam behind you.
Next you learn to ring 'changes'. This involves a conductor calling out instructions for you to swap with another ringer - one of you speeds up for a moment as the other slows down. You start to also think about what is happening around you. Who are you following now? Who might they swap with next? Our patient tower master always knows what everyone is doing and what they should be doing and can be called upon for directions.
The next skill is to 'hunt'. This time you are responsible for knowing who you are to swap with without being told. Fortunately, the order is simple, fixed and somewhat like a Maypole dance. You also start to learn the hitherto mythical 'rope sight' -- the ability to see who is just ahead or behind you out of a cascade of six or eight ropes pulled within a few seconds of each other.
With those skills you are ready for 'methods'. These are simple patterns for who swaps with whom, but because the 'who' is based on the current ringing order, not their position in the room, this takes time to master. There are enough methods of varying complexity to keep you busy developing your skill for many years. Along the way you get to ring at other churches, the occasional wedding and get to wake the village up on Sunday mornings.
Fortunately, we are blessed in Steeple Aston with a knowledgeable teacher and a group of ringers who are very tolerant of learners' many mistakes. Steeple Aston also benefits from a nice set of bells -- at other churches you will find a surprising variety of awkward ringing spaces, clangy bells, jittery ropes and low ceilings that make you appreciate home. If you were ever interested in learning this historic (and peculiarly English) skill, Steeple Aston is an excellent place to start.
We practice most Tuesdays at 7:30; come along to try it out.
The third bell in the tower was replaced. See pictures here...
Click below to hear Jack Knowles interviewed on Radio Oxford about the Steeple Aston handbells.
Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, the Handbell Ringers will not be performing around the village this year.
Jack Knowles' first peel is covered in Odd Bob, Page 11...
The handbell ringers had their most successful year ever in 2018 and were able to donate over £1400 to The Ronald McDonald House Charities.
March 2, 2016
Steeple Aston Bellringers Annual General Meeting 2016 The meeting took place at the Rectory on 9th February. Ten ringers were present and the Rector took the chair. Graham Clifton, as tower captain, reported that we have not always been able to ring all 8 bells on Sundays and that we rely heavily on our regular visitors to practise on Tuesdays. However, we are delighted to have Pamela Knowles and her son Jack as new recruits. We enjoyed an afternoon outing in March to visit three churches: Brill, Chearsley & Cuddington. We entered the Branch striking contest held at Horley but slipped to third place this year. The ringers team came third in this years village quiz. The tower dinner was held at the Red Lion. We rang three quarter peals during the year: * 26th June. For the Branch 90th anniversary. This was also Freddie Taylors first quarter peal and it also marked Nick & Lydia Powells 30th wedding anniversary. * 9th Sept. We rang to celebrate the Queen becoming the longest serving monarch in history. * On Tuesday 25th August, in place of the normal practice, we rang to commemorate the sad loss of Claire Tarrant. Graham thanked everyone for their continued support and urged members to attend service ringing and practices whenever possible.
As Tower Keeper Graham assured us that the bells are in good working order but that ropes may need to be replaced this year. The handbells have been overhauled at Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
Diana Gardner, secretary, said that we have not had as much additional ringing as usual this year, but that our ringers have been involved in many activities throughout the Banbury Branch.
Diana, the treasurer, informed the meeting that there is a total of £5,568.55 in our accounts.
The handbell captain, Sally Cooper, reported that the Christmas ringing had gone very smoothly and that we had raised £1235.19. It was agreed that we should send £1,200 to Katharine House Hospice.
With the exception of one officer, that of Child Protection which Pamela was prepared to take on, the others remain as before.
During Any Other Business these ideas were discussed:
February 23, 2015
The tower held an Open Evening on 10th Feb. This was well supported by existing members and our regular visitors from other towers, but only 3 locals came. Fortunately two of them, Andy and Zoe Shayler were keen to learn and 'had a go'. Both showed great promise so we are hopeful for the future. The other visitor only came for a look, which was good as we always enjoy talking about ourselves!! :) Dorothy Clifton
February 14, 2015
Handbell ringing round the village for the two weeks prior to Christmas went surprisingly smoothly, with the weather being much kinder than in previous years and the welcome addition of two former ringers along with two new recruits.
As you know we were collecting money for the fight against Ebola via the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee), and the amount we raised was a magnificent £1,195.70.
Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who gave so generously and my personal gratitude goes to the team members who consisted of Diana Gardner, Dorothy, Vicky and Graham Clifton, Chris and Catherine Cooper, Nick and Samantha Powell, Lawrence White, Charlotte and Sam Clarke, Helen and Freddie Taylor, Kimberley Brock, Joey Price, Hannah Hodges and Daisy Spencer.
Sally Cooper, Handbell Captain
June 10, 2014
Saturday 7th June was the Branch Striking competition held at Mollington on their light 6. Despite the big difference in weight to our bells, our ringers handled them so completently that they won the cup by a large margin. Eight other teams took part. this is the 7th time in 10 years that Steeple Aston have won !