It is believed that Handbell ringing began in England about three hundred years ago, although it is possible that the Chinese were using handbells as long as 5000 years ago.
Originally, handbells were used by the tower bell ringers to practice their change ringing, which meant that they did not need to stand in a cold and draughty Church, but could practice in the comfort of their own homes, or, more likely, in the local hostelry!
In time, it was discovered that they could also play simple tunes with the bells. The art of tune ringing developed further in the 19th century when competitions were held, mostly in the North of England, between rival bands playing increasingly difficult pieces and using a large numbers of bells.
These events proved to be popular with the ringers and public alike, and although handbell ringing subsequently went into decline, since the latter part of the 20th century it has again become increasingly popular and has spread worldwide.
It has been said that because handbells were so commonplace in Britain during the 18th Century, the composer Handel referred to the British Isles as the ‘Ringing Isles’.
George Friderik Handel
Musical handbells, tuned in sets and fitted with leather straps, very similar to the ones used by the Stanwick Handbell Ringers were introduced in the late 17th century and quickly became popular among tower bell ringers.
John studies the inscription on one of our new bells and discovers it is his birthday present!