Ringers everywhere can feel justifiably proud that Westminster Abbey, where English Kings and Queens have been crowned for nearly 1,000 years, will play such an important role in The Ringing World Centenary Day – Saturday, 26th March 2011.

The centre piece of the day, at the kind invitation of the Dean and Chapter, will be a special service of Evensong at 3pm. Details of the service have yet to be agreed, but it will include an address by the Dean, the Very Revd Dr John Hall, and singing of hymns and anthems led by the Abbey choir. The choir, which is renowned throughout the world for the quality of its music, comprises boys from the Abbey Choir School and the Lay Vicars (male choristers of more mature years).

As a special concession kindly agreed by the Dean and Chapter, holders of Centenary Day tickets will be able to enter the Abbey from 2pm to spend time looking round the great building before taking their seats. There is much to be seen. As well as the magnificent architecture, there are many royal tombs, the shrine of St Edward the Confessor and hundreds of monuments to the great national figures of the past, including writers and poets from Chaucer to Dickens, Hardy and Betjeman in Poets’ Corner. The normal admission price for tourists is £15.

The north-west tower and the bells, a fine ring of ten with a tenor of 30cwt in D cast at Whitechapel in 1971, will naturally feature in the celebration. Unlike in most churches and cathedrals, the Abbey bells are traditionally rung after, rather than before, services (except when HM The Queen is attending, in which case the bells are rung both before and after). On Centenary Day, the Dean and Chapter have kindly agreed that the bells can be rung for up to one hour after the service and that visitors may take part in the ringing alongside members of the Abbey Company, provided that a high standard of ringing is maintained. Application forms which will note ringing ability requirements will be issued with the Centenary Day tickets. In the event of more ringers applying than can be accommodated, selection will be by ballot.

Before the service, between 1.00 and 2.30pm, members of the Abbey Company of Ringers will conduct tours of the NW tower. These will include the ringing chamber, where beautifully-written peal boards record all but the most recent peals on the bells (each one rung to commemorate a significant national event or royal anniversary), and a viewing of the bells. As numbers for the tower tours will be limited, application to participate will be by means of a form sent out with the day tickets.

More information will appear in the following weeks about the many events planned for Centenary Day – all available to ticket-holders at no extra charge.

Chris Rogers

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers