Church bells floating over Barnet

Written by  Tuesday, 24 February 2015 12:13
Bell ringers at Barnet parish church take a pause after concentrating on Grandsire Triples Bell ringers at Barnet parish church take a pause after concentrating on Grandsire Triples
Sunday mornings are quite a rush for the bell ringers of High Barnet. At 9 a.m. they meet up at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist and the bells ring out for half an hour before the start of the main morning service at 9.30.

Then, with just enough time to catch their breath, several set off for Monken Hadley to help ring the bells and call worshippers to the 10.30 service at the church of St Mary the Virgin.

Hearing the bells, perhaps while walking along the High Street or Wood Street, is one of the delights of living in High Barnet, whether early on Sunday morning or perhaps on practice night on Monday evening.

The bells are rung from a platform half-way up the tower of St John the Baptist; access is by a steep spiral staircase. The parish church has eight bells, two more than Monken Hadley, so needs a full complement to complete a Grandsire Triples, which can take up to three minutes to perform.   

Bell ringers enjoy each other’s company and a dash from one church to the next adds to the fun.

High Barnet’s team, under its ringing master Nancy Surman, share duties, and especially bell practice, with half a dozen local churches. 

Derek Yates, at 83, is the oldest of the pool of a dozen bell ringers at St John the Baptist. He has been ringing the bells there for 25 years.

“It was my daughter who got me into bell-ringing, and it has turned out to be a great hobby. It is challenging, but good exercise and a very sociable pastime.”

David Ely, the longest serving bell ringer, with tower captain Nancy SurmanDavid Ely, the longest serving bell ringer, with tower captain Nancy SurmanDavid Ely (70) is High Barnet’s longest-serving bell ringer. He started at the parish church 44 years ago.

“I’m a mathematician and worked in the computer industry so I enjoy a mathematical challenge; bell-ringing can be all about mathematical permutations rather than just melody.”

Nancy Surman was elected the High Barnet tower captain four years ago and she has been bell-ringing since the age of 14. She liaises with Tricia Narracott-Wales, captain at Monken Hadley, to make sure they have a full team each Sunday.  

“Both our teams are ringing for the main Sunday service. That’s what we are there for so we never want to let our churches down,” said Ms Surman.

By local tradition Monken Hadley rings in the New Year. “It is one of the highlights, ringing out the old year and ringing in the new, and we end up having quite a party,” said Ms Narracott-Wales.

Perhaps the final word should go to Ann Pegum, another regular ringer at High Barnet. “I always wanted to be a bell ringer and it is great when we go on tour visiting other churches.  

they sound so wonderful floating over High Barnet

“I know how important the bells are to the residents of High Barnet. When local people hear them ringing out on our Monday evening practice night they say they sound so wonderful floating over High Barnet and that makes it all so worthwhile.”

The eight bells of St John the Baptist were first dedicated on Christmas Eve 1892. They were rehung with metal headstocks and rededicated on Christmas Eve 1992.

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