(Left to right) Back row : Sue Hunt, Rosemary Greasby, Sally Dugan, Malcolm Sutcliffe, David Greasby, Alan Keable, Roy Thorpe (Captain.) Front row: Josephine Butterfield and the Rev. Janet Russell.
There was a newspaper story recently about a vicar in Middlesex who sacked his church bellringers because they were too cliquey.
We hope that would never apply to the ringers at St Agatha's. Whether you are nine or ninety, if you are tall enough to hold a bell rope we would welcome you to our tower.
Our ringers come from all walks of life. Several joined in a recruitment drive to ring the bells for the Millennium; others have been ringing all their lives. Ringing is like riding a bicycle; once you have learnt, you never forget. So, if you have rung at some time in the past, why not come back and have a go? Or if you have never learnt, why not give it a try?
Practice night is on Tuesdays, from 8 pm onwards, and we ring for the regular 9.30 am Sunday services as well as for weddings, by request.
Learners start with the basics of handling a rope, and some simple safety rules. (Everyone knows the cartoon image of the hapless bellringer being carried up to the roof, but this really is only a cartoon image.)
From this, they progress to the different varieties of change ringing. As the name suggests, this means changing the order in which the bells are rung. This can be quite simple, with each bell taking it in turn to lead (plain hunting), or it can be immensely complicated.
Some people are quite happy ringing rounds; others develop a fascination with the different methods. These have some wonderful names: Bob Doubles; Grandsire Triples; Cambridge Surprise.
On the walls inside the tower are boards to commemorate peals rung on special occasions. On January 1st, 1969, a peal of Plain Bob Major, with 5,376 changes was rung. This took three hours and seven minutes. The ringer on the tenor, which is the heaviest bell, is still part of the team today. More recently, a quarter peal (lasting a more manageable 45 minutes) was rung as a joint celebration of two 30th wedding anniversaries.
St Agatha's has a ring of eight bells; six of them were recast in 1808 after the church tower fell down. The tenor, recast again in 1908, weights 11 cwts. The two lightest bells were added in 1968.
We are affiliated to the Oxfordshire Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers. More details about bellringing in Oxfordshire and elsewhere can be found at http://www.parishes.oxford.anglican.org/odg/