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Decisions, decisions, ... 2 – Peals that comply

 Decisions (by Yvonne Hall)The Council long since stopped talking about ‘accepting’ or ‘recognising’ peals, and it has never ‘approved’ peals (though when you read some of the language in early 20th century debates it is clear that the individuals concerned would have liked some things to be banned).

In modern times the Council has tried to shed this image, most recently by replacing the Decision on recognition that said: ‘The Council shall recognise all peals rung in complete conformity with parts A to D above’ with a Decision on analysis that says: ‘The Analysis shall include all peals published in The Ringing World and shall identify peals not complying with parts A to D above’.

That change was intended to avoid further criticism, but it didn’t. Whatever they might think of the Council, most ringers do care about recognition by the wider ringing community, so they do not like it when the custodian of the community’s central standards refers to their performances in a way that seems to marginalise them.

What makes a peal compliant?

The ‘conditions required for all peals’ cover several different aspects. I’ve rearranged them into groups and simplified the wording.

About what is rung:

About what the ringers do:

 About performance quality:

External to the ringers:


To a large degree these reflect what most people would do anyway. The question is whether the things they exclude really should be excluded. Let’s look at what is and isn’t.


 • Start and end with rounds – That rules out for example calling the bells into Queens and ringing the peal starting and ending there (as some Devon call change ‘peals’ do). It would also rule out some quirky Triples compositions that include each of the 5,040 possible rows (starting from Rounds) but where the 5,041st row would not be Rounds.

• No row rung twice in succession – That rules out for example ringing a peal in whole pulls – which might be particularly effective half muffled. It would be twice as long (since 5,000+ changes would mean ringing 10,000+ rows) and probably more difficult to ring.

• Every bell sounds in every row – That reflects the physical limitation on the timing of bells rung full circle, which originally led to the development of change ringing. However, the physical limitation doesn’t prevent a type of ringing called ‘cylindrical’ where instead of turning round at the back and front of a row bells continue in the same direction – hunting past the back and arriving at the front of the next row, or vice versa. Drawing the blue line would need cylindrical paper, hence the name. Cylindrical ringing is a challenge – with bells on opposite strokes – but the handling and sound is essentially like normal ringing.

Methods etc conform to Decisions – I will discuss this in a separate article.


Continuous ringing – That rules out stopping for a break – something that other performers do, say between movements of a symphony, but which ringers have never done.

Same person(s) ring each bell throughout – That rules out ringing in relays, for example like they did in the 27 hour long extent of Major rung at Leeds, Kent in 1761.

Handbells must be retained in hand – That rules out ringing ‘off the table’ like some tune ringers do. It also rules out ‘tapping’ bells hung in a frame, for example the 13¾ hour 19,440 Kent Treble Bob Maximus performed by Elijah Roberts in 1837.

No physical memory aids – That rules out having the method or composition visible for reference while ringing. Whether it rules out putting your left or right foot forward to remember whether you are going in quick or slow in Stedman is an interesting question.

No assistance from someone not ringing – That rules out conducting from outside the circle or having standers behind. Whether it would rule out asking a passing warden to turn on the light or open a window is unclear.


Mis-call not to be corrected after it takes effect – The actual wording is: ‘... later than during the change at which the call or change of method ... would properly take effect’ so it applies to missed calls or method changes as well as to incorrect calls. That gives the conductor about 4 seconds to realise the mistake and make the necessary correction, or to set up the attempt. Putting the affected bells where they should be a few blows later or at the next lead is not permitted.

Any shift or error immediately corrected – This is not a simplification – the Decision says: ‘... shall be corrected immediately’ – but how rapid is ‘immediate’?

A notable omission from the Decisions is any reference to that most important aspect of a ringing performance – the striking. Most conductors require a higher standard of striking for a formal performance than for general ringing, and most set a higher standard for a peal than for a shorter performance such as a quarter. The Decisions mention striking elsewhere (under recommendations to associations) so one might expect it also to be mentioned among the peal requirements.


The Decisions specify the minimum length of a peal as 5,000 for Major and above, but 5,040 for Triples and below. 5,040 reflects the historical link with the extent of Triples, which would probably have been taken as the standard for all peals were it not for the fact that an exact 5,040 isn’t possible with a lot of methods above Triples – hence the historic adoption of 5,000 as a convenient round number to act as a minimum. But this raises an obvious question. If 5,002 London Royal is a peal why should, say, 5,029 Grandsire Doubles not be a peal?

The Decisions impose another constraint for Triples and below, that the length be made up of whole extents (or multiple extent blocks). For Triples that rules out any length between 5,040 and 10,080, which seems unduly restrictive. For Minor it rules out peals of spliced Surprise with 14 different 360s (which were rung in the 19th century before the Council made the rule). For Doubles it means that 5,040, 5160 or 5280 are allowed but 5100, a length often used in peals on higher numbers to mark a 100th anniversary, is not (because it includes a 60). This too seems anomalous.

Other requirements

Other peal requirements include:

I’ll discuss the latter in a future article.

Does compliance matter?

Anyone can ring and publish a peal that doesn’t comply with the Decisions, and the Council has tried hard to remove the stigma associated with doing so, but the fact that the Council’s Decisions still say ‘all peals shall ...’ gives a strong impression that anything that doesn’t is somehow not a peal, or at least not a proper one.

The other penalty for non-compliance is that the Council only recognises method names given in compliant peals, something I will discuss in more detail in another article. I will also discuss an alternative approach to the tricky question of compliance in general.

John Harrison 2016 (Cartoon by Yvonne Hall)

See the current Decisions . Article first published in The Ringing World  in 2016 


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