Elstow Bell Ringers

Bell Ringing at Elstow

Elstow possesses a ring of six bells. More information can be found on the ‘Elstow Tower and Bells’ page on this site.  The bells are normally rung for Sunday services at 11.00-11.30 and 18.00-18.30 and for a practice on Friday evenings 20.00 – 21.00. Additionally, the bells are rung for weddings, some funerals, and also for other Church and National events as appropriate. The bells are occasionally rung at other times by visiting bands.

Elstow Abbey Tower

Elstow Abbey Tower and Clock

There are currently six members of the Elstow band (ringing team) who are supported by a number of regular visitors from neighbouring towers to ensure that all the bells can be rung. Both ringing and non-ringing visitors are always very welcome to join in or observe the ringing at the above times, and at other times by prior arrangement. We host visits by various schools and youth organisations.

Bell ringing is a fascinating hobby involving an unusual combination of musical, mathematical, and coordination skills, although perhaps contrary to perception, it does not require great physical strength or stamina. Bell ringing is also a very sociable activity; ringers are always welcome to join in the ringing at almost any of the 6,000+ towers across the United Kingdom and Ireland and also a number of overseas countries including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

To find out more about Bell Ringing please visit the Central Councils of Church Bell Ringers web site at.  https://cccbr.org.uk/

We would like to recruit more ringers and are always happy to train new recruits. If you are interested in learning to ring and join the band at Elstow, please contact the Tower Captain at: towercaptain@elstow-abbey.org.uk for an informal discussion and visit to a bell ringing practice.

Further information about learning to ring can also be found on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers web site: https://cccbr.org.uk/bellringing/learn/

The Elstow ringers are affiliated to the Bedfordshire Association of Church Bell Ringers. The Association organises regular ringing meetings, competitions, and social events, provides education and training opportunities, and supports bell maintenance and restorations through its bell funds, within the county. https://www.bacbr.org.uk/

During the current Covid19 pandemic ringing is severely restricted. We regret that we cannot accommodate visitors or new recruits while those restrictions remain in place.


Peals rung at Elstow Abbey Church

At the time of writing (2020), there have been a total of 115 peals rung on the bells, the first recorded being a peal of Doubles in two methods, rung on the original five bells on 10 April 1902, and the latest, a peal in Seven Minor Methods rung on 15 December 2019. The first peal on the six bells was in seven minor methods on 17th December 1908, shortly after completion of their re-hanging and augmentation.  The 100th peal of minor was rung on the bells in the same methods exactly 100 years later on 17th December 2008.

A list of all the peals rung on the bells is available at: http://cccbr.org.uk/felstead/tbid.php?tid=1758&page=0&rpp=100&sort=0

Full details of all peals rung on the bells from 1983 onwards can be found at


Details of a number of significant peals are recorded on boards on the ringing chamber walls. These include amongst others the first peal on the six bells and a peal rung in 1964 to commemorate the completion of restoration work to the tower. One of the peals, on 23rd October 1973, was rung by the youngest band (average age 16) yet to have rung a peal for the Bedfordshire Association


The following is an extract from the Annual Report (2019) for Elstow Abbey.

Elstow Abbey Bell Tower

Elstow Abbey Bell Tower viewed from the churchyard

Ringing this year has been significantly curtailed by the Covid19 pandemic. The last ringing prior to the lock down was on Sunday 15th March for Evensong. We were able to resume limited ringing on Sunday 16th August after a silence of just over 5 months; this specially arranged to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. (Other than during the ban on ringing during WW1 – although ringing was only then restricted at certain times – and during WWII, between June 1940 – April 1943, this was probably the longest period for which the bells have remained silent since their restoration in 1908, from when, according to the records, there has always been an active band with regular service ringing at Elstow).

Unlike almost all other Churches, we are again able to ring all of our bells. This has been made possible by shortening the ropes and ringing three of the six bells from an upper floor to comply with social distancing requirements, with a number of other safeguards in place. For the time being we are only permitted to ring for a maximum of 15 minutes between the morning services with the same six ringers. This and the additional challenge of ringing totally by ear means that our repertoire is somewhat limited. We have also been able to restart the clock and hour chime that fell victim to the Covid restrictions.

Prior to the lockdown the bells were rung on most Sundays after the morning service and prior to evensong, and we continued to hold a well-supported practice on Friday evenings. We also ring for weddings funerals and other events as requested, and undertake clock winding and flag flying duties.

There are currently six members of the Elstow band and we remain dependent on a now reduced number of visitors from other local towers (mostly Kempston and Bromham) for service, wedding, and practice ringing. We are very grateful for their continued support.
Two full peals were rung on the bells prior to the Covid19 restrictions taking effect, the details of which are listed below. Largely owing to the restrictions, we did not ring any quarter peals.

We hosted a number of visits by local brownies, cubs, scouts, and youth groups from Silsoe, Wixams, Wilstead, and Elstow during the year. We usually give them a short talk on safety aspects, the history and purpose of ringing, and how a bell works with the highlight being an opportunity to chime a bell. In some cases, where age and numbers permit, groups ascend the tower to see the bell frame and clock.

Page date: September 2020

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