The Early Days of Bath and Wells Striking Competitions

By Michael Horseman

Our friends in Devon and Cornwall had been holding call-change striking competitions for many years.  The test piece normally comprised a rise in peal, some call-changes (usually a “Sixty on Queens”)and then a fall.  The standard of all this ringing always being very high, aided by the fact that the ringing is with closed handstroke leads.  Their organisation was ( and is) very organised, and a visit to  many a local tower there will reveal a number of very ornate certificates. 

It was not until the early 1960s however, that several more adventurous scientific societies up country decided to experiment with similar events, normally ringing from the bells up position and comprising a test piece of 120 or 240 changes. 

The writer felt that this might be a good idea for Bath and Wells and in 1963 persuaded the Chew Branch to give it a try.  He sold it to them on the grounds that it would encourage local Sunday service bands to think about their standard of striking seriously before, during and hopefully after the competition.  A secondary attraction was that it was the one occasion of the year when a complete local team were likely to go to a Branch event.  Friendly rivalry between teams was to be only a minor bi-product of the event.  Some people were worried about the Association rule (left out at the 1971 rule revision) forbidding ringing for prizes, although there was no question of prizes and only certificates (sometimes a trophy to hold for one year) were ever awarded.

 Thus it was that on 23rd February, 1963, a bitterly cold day when the church hall pipes (and facilities) were all frozen up, we met at Chew Stoke, when an encouraging number of teams turned up to ring, and were judged by Harry Sanger and his son Tony from Evercreech.  We  managed to do some thawing in the hall and brew some tea, but the judges took an age to come out of their retreat ( a nice warm local house!) and it emerged that, like us, they had never done this before and had listened to the whole lot of ringing again on their tape recorder, just to be sure!

After this start, Chew continued each year (although NOT in February!) and were soon joined by Frome Branch and some others.  Most Branches quickly made an accommodation in their rules to widen the appeal by including call-changes.  The idea of an “Association Final “ was not accepted at first and three “unofficial” Somerset Striking Competitions were held in 1967, 70 and 71.  From 1972 it became an official event on the Association calendar, later joined by an annual 8 bell competition  I sometimes worry about the local value of the 8, 10 and 12 bell competitions, but I have no doubt that the 6 bell competitions still serve their purpose.  Long may they continue.