The Peal Boards

FROM THE BELL TOWER by Ann Desics Nov. 2012

It was suggested that one or more of us up in the tower could perhaps write about some of the historic items contained within the walls of the ringing room, or anything about the bell ringers activities. Well, I’ve been looking around the ringing room and hardly knew where to start as there are quite a few memorable occasions commemorated on the wooded “Peal Boards” fixed to the walls. So as 2012 has been quite a Royal year with all the celebrations from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I thought I’d start with the framed letter sent from Buckingham Palace on 7th May 1923.

Peal BoardThe letter formally thanks the six members of the Bedfordshire Association of Church Bell ringers who rang a peal on St. Peters bells on Thursday 26th April 1923 for the marriage of T.R.H. The Duke and Duchess of York at Westminster Abbey on that same day. St. Peters just had six 6 bells at that time and the six ringers were a local band of Sunday service ringers. The Duke and Duchess were, of course, some years later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. I don’t know how Buckingham Palace was informed about the peal, presumably a letter sent by Royal Mail. There certainly were no texts or emails in those days. The reply was sent 12 days after the peal was rung and obviously was duly framed and proudly hung up in the tower where it has remained ever since (nearly 90 years!).

The peal took 2 hours and 50 minutes to ring from start to finish, with no stops or any repetition in the changes depicted on the framed peal board. Set patterns of changes that we ring are called Methods and each method has a name, very often of a town or city. In a peal a method is rung for 720 changes, known as an Extent, and a total peal contains 7 extents, therefore making 5040 changes in all. Sounds very technical but it’s “easy when you know how!”

So you see, St. Peters ringers have a Royal connection in the past, but you won’t need to bow or curtsy when you see us!