Tower News

Henry Penn Bell Sculpture ‘Voice of the City’

On December 2017, a new work of art was unveiled in Peterborough City Centre at Lower Bridge Street, just a few hundred yards from the main shopping centre and Peterborough Cathedral. The Voice of the City’ is a depiction of a bell in the stages of being cast and is a monument and tribute to Henry Penn (1685-1729). Penn’s life was relatively short, just 44 years, but he cast bells for as many as 100 churches and houses. Most of these places are shown on the map in the bronze upright case which was drawn by local historian, bellringer and Henry Penn enthusiast Michael Lee.

The sculpture was created by artist Stephen Broadbent and is situated close to Penn’s foundry at Bridge Street where he cast over 250 bells. It was located near to where the Peterborough Magistrates' Court stands today. The underpass running between Lower Bridge Street and The Lido has been re-named Foundry Walk in his honour, and a canal called 'Bell Dyke' ran to the rear of the foundry joining the River Nene on which many of his bells were floated to their destinations.


In 1709 at the age of 24 he cast the first ring of 10 bells in Northamptonshire for Peterborough Cathedral. The largest of these 10 bells, weighing 30cwt, is now called 'The City Bell'. This is the ‘Voice of the City’ of the sculpture and strikes the hour on the Cathedral clock and is swung electronically before most services as a call bell. It is the only one of his bells remaining at the Cathedral, the other 9 having been sold at various times. The five lightest bells were sold in the 19th century, and four more when the current ring of bells was transferred to the Cathedral from St John the Divine, Leicester.

Penn was apprenticed to his uncle, bellfounder Henry Bagley at Ecton, Northamptonshire and came to Peterborough to establish his foundry. He and his wife Diana had eight children who were baptised in St John's Church, Peterborough, just behind the Market Square. The end of Henry Penn’s life was controversial; in 1723 he had cast a ring of 8 bells, tenor 18cwt, for St Ives, Huntingdonshire. The churchwardens did not pay him the full amount owed as they said the bells were not properly in tune. The subsequent court case was not resolved until 1729. The judge found in his favour as the church had been ringing the bells during that time. In the courtroom Penn's last words were said to be: 'I am sick to death. The whole thing will do me no good’, which proved correct, as he died while mounting his horse shortly after . These bells were subsequently destroyed when a plane crashed into St Ives spire in March 1918, but many Henry Penn bells still remain at various churches. He was known for his colourful bell inscriptions; the old 5th at St Ives said ‘ When backward rung we tell of fire, think how the world shall thus expire. This year Peterborough Cathedral is celebrating its 900th anniversary, so if you are visiting this wonderful building, do walk the few hundred yards and see the sculpture; it is well worth a visit.

The project was supported by The Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership & the City Council.

Sue Marsden

Farewell and Thank you to Tony Evans

Teachers and Pupils, past and present gathered after the normal session of Castor Ringing School on Saturday 19th November to say Thank You and Farewell to Tony Evans who is moving out of the area.

David Teall gave the following Tribute to Tony:

Ten days ago we received an email from Tony in which he said:  “I shall shortly be moving out of the area, within the next two to three weeks.  This means that I will no longer be able to organise and administer the Saturday morning training sessions [at Castor].”

This news came as a shock to us all and we have still to come to grips with how we will manage without his leadership and tireless support.  However, that is for the future.  Today we want to take time out to express to Tony our heart-felt thanks for all that he has done for the Ringing School and to wish him and Rosemary the very best for the future in their new home in Bourne.  Tony: we are relieved to discover that you are not moving a million miles away so we hope very much that we shall continue to see you from time to time.

Tony learnt to ring as a youngster in Sussex when the Tower Captain suggested it to him as an alternative to being in the choir.  Without wishing to cast judgement on his ability as a singer, we are delighted that he made the choice that he did.

When Tony left home he left ringing too but, thankfully for us, he took it up again in the early 90s here at Castor.  Since then he has been hugely influential in the development of bell ringing both here and in the Peterborough Branch, the Peterborough Guild and the wider National scene.  He spent six years as one of the Guild’s four representatives on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers where he served on the Towers and Belfries Committee and, here in the Peterborough Branch, he served both as Chairman and Vice Chairman and, for 12 years, as Branch Steward.  In this latter position he masterminded the project to augment the six bells here to eight and supported the restoration of the rings at Barnack, Bulwick, Easton-on-the-Hill, Glinton, Ryhall, and Warmington with advice, encouragement and practical assistance.  His immense contribution was formally recognised by the Peterborough Diocesan Guild by his appointment as a Life Honorary Member in 2006.

Under Tony’s guidance as Tower Captain the tower here at Castor became a hub of activity as he took a personal lead in the training of a whole host of new recruits, many of whom are in this room today.  From this grew the idea of the Ringing School which was officially recognised by the Central Council as a National Ringing Centre in 2006 with Tony as Founder and Manager.  Since then over 100 pupils have passed through its doors to learn the art of change ringing; a living testament to Tony’s vision, dedication and hard work.

Tony, we are truly grateful for everything that you have done for ringing.  We thank you for your vision and generosity and want you to know that you will remain an inspiration to us all long after you have moved away.  We wish you and Rosemary the very best for the future and ask you to accept this gift as a token of our love and appreciation.

Woodwalton Bells Restored

The bells at St Andrews Church in Woodwalton,  Cambridgeshire have now been restored and are available for ringing again for the first time since 1968.  As we do not have a regular ringing team it has been suggested that we hold Bookable Open Days to allow the Bells to be rung regularly.  Please see the announcement below for details.
Geoff Baldwin

Electronic Communication

The Peterborough Branch communicates with its members by use of an email list called ‘PetNet’ to which the majority of members are subscribed.  If you are one of the few who are not on this list please contact either the Branch Secretary or Chairman via the Home Page of this website and ask for your email address to be added.

David Teall

Castor Ringing Centre August 2014

The Castor Saturday morning ringing school is entering its 8th year of continuous training of novices through to advanced method ringing. During this period we have had about 70 trainees from a large number of different towers from as far afield as Kings Lynne, Huntingdon and Rutland. We currently have trainees from Warmington, Nassington, Wadenhoe, Great Casterton, St. Johns, Peterborough and Huntingdon. We currently have a “hard core” of   half-a-dozen regular trainers/helpers with a further 5 or 6 that will fill in when we are short. Sadly we lost one of our helpers last year with the sudden death of Geoff Davies.

We occasionally hold specific training days for branch towers, a couple of years ago we held a bob minor day and last year we had a train the trainers course.

Tony Evans

Branch News August 2014

In April our Ringing Master organised a striking workshop at Bulwick.  The afternoon began with a theory session then the students were divided into two groups.  One group went to the bells for practical instruction with six experts giving each student the opportunity of ringing rounds and then a method of their choice with a crack band and an expert beside them to correct any faults as they occurred.  The other group retired to the Chancel with an ipod and James to listen to ringing on varying numbers of bells with deliberate mistakes which they had to identify.  The afternoon concluded with tea and chat plus a huge vote of thanks to the experts who made it all possible.

May saw another Ring for your Supper, this time visiting Benefield, Oundle and Polebrook.  As usual it was a well attended event with a wide variety of ringing on bells which were unfamiliar to many.  The food was excellent and plentiful and the company stimulating.  As the ringing came to an end at Polebrook the rope on the second cascaded to the floor leaving the Branch Steward with a job to put things back to rights before a wedding later in the week!

The eight bell practices at Castor on the first Friday of each month have continued to be well attended and have attracted learners ringing rounds to spliced surprise experts.  In May and August the practice became a six bell practise at Easton and Glinton to encourage the bands there and to give an opportunity for those who found eight bells somewhat daunting.

We rounded off the summer with a branch ringing outing to a selection of six and eight bell towers in Leicestershire with an excellent pub lunch part way through.  The weather was good and the scenery around the five villages was spectacular so the day held much promise.  Everyone agreed at the end of the day that the bells had exceeded expectations and the churches had all proved to be particularly interesting.

Ringing Centre News August 2013 - February 2014

The Castor Saturday morning ringing school is entering its 8th year of continuous training of novices through to method ringing.  During this period we have had about 70 trainees from a large number of different towers from as far afield as Kings Lynne, Huntingdon and Rutland.  We currently have trainees from Warmington, Nassington, Wadenhoe, Great Casterton, St. Johns, Peterborough and Huntingdon.  We have a “hard core” of half-a-dozen regular trainers/helpers with a further 5 or 6 who will fill in when we are short.  Sadly we lost one of our helpers last year with the sudden death of Geoff Davies.

We occasionally hold specific training days for branch towers, a couple of years ago we held a Bob Minor day and last year we had a Train the Trainers course.  Before Christmas past and present trainees and trainers met up at ‘the Feathers’ for an excellent Christmas Lunch.

Tony Evans

Branch Newsletter – February 2014

Another busy six months have passed with record attendances at our eight-bell Branch Practices at St. Kyneburgha’s Castor.  The ringing has covered everything from rounds to six-spliced surprise by representatives from across the branch.

In September James Thorpe, our Ringing Master, organised an outing to six towers ‘south of the river’.  It was a beautiful day, the lunch was excellent and the bells varied and enjoyable.  All those who went along are looking forward to a repeat performance this year.

Our AGM was held at St Mary’s Peterborough on January 18th.  Afternoon ringing was followed by a service led by Revd Michael Moore after which we all sat down to a magnificent hot tea prepared by the local band.  Replete, we began the business meeting by standing to remember members who had passed away during the past year.  The Chairman, Tony Evans, explained his decision to step down as Chairman and the members expressed their gratitude to him for his quiet but effective leadership.  David Teall was elected as Chairman and Nick Elks joined the committee, otherwise the officers remained unchanged.  The health of the branch was demonstrated by the election of 9 new members.

Striking Workshop April 2014

Bell ringing is nothing if it is not a public performance, especially when ringing for services. The complexity of the method rung entertains the ringer but it is the striking that makes the ringing appreciated by the public.

Other areas use striking competitions to provide a focus for striving to improve standards. In the Peterborough Branch, however, members have made it clear that competition is not viewed as the best way for us to increase our striking confidence.

When the committee proposed the idea of a training day, to specifically work on striking, it was met with enthusiasm within the branch. Preparations were therefore made, “experts” sourced, and candidates invited. At St Nicholas’ Bulwick on 5th April 2014 twelve branch members accepted the invitation to step into the unknown by attending a Striking Workshop.

It is an enormous challenge for a band to consistently produce twelve evenly spaced blows, followed by a hand stroke gap. We started by considering what ingredients are required to achieve this: avoiding an over reliance on ropesight; listening intently to the position of your bell within each change; advanced handling beyond that required just to competently ring; trusting your internal sense of the established rhythm; and being open to constructive criticism. Our experts then treated us to a demonstration of what near-perfect ringing sounds like setting the standard for the afternoon; followed by ringing with a common fault for comparison by “cartwheeling” i.e., ringing without a hand stroke gap.









A quiet corner is found to concentrate on listening to electronically generated faults.  Is that the third that is early or the fourth that is late?


Part of the afternoon was spent by the participants listening to pre-recorded and electronically generated ringing with particular faults to identify.  Could you identify a 10% timing fault?  Identifying a gap was easier than identifying which bell was at fault.  There were also examples of the syncopated rhythm that occurs in ringing when the bells coming in are late and bells going out are early.  All this generated much discussion and hopefully trained our ears.

Formal feedback on the day was sought from the guinea pigs that participated and I’m pleased to say that everyone seemed to find it useful as well as enjoyable. Judging by the comments given the highlights of the afternoon were undoubtedly the opportunities to ring with our experts. Firstly ringing Rounds and Call Changes, then Change Ringing, our participants rang with the band with one member stepping out to stand behind them while offering constructive feedback to help refine their technique. The methods rung for the Change Ringing training ranged from plain hunt 5 to Cambridge Surprise Minor depending on the experience of the participant with the emphasis on achieving the best striking rather than stretching to a more complex method, just as one would on a Sunday morning.










Colin Weld being put through his paces by the “experts”


Enormous thanks should be extended to our resident expert band: John Riley, Robin and Judith Rogers, Derek Jones, Jim Benner and Andrew Parker; they all rang for the majority of the three hour session! Clearly their combined totals of 4862 peals had prepared them well for such a marathon. Although they denied they should be termed “experts” they did us proud. Thanks also to Sally Collop, Sue Jones, David and Pat Teall for helping with organisation and the much needed half-time refreshments.

James Thorpe
Ringing Master


Branch News August 2013

The last six months have provided plenty of work for our new secretary and ringing master who have ensured that all the active towers in the branch have had at least one visit to keep them in touch with what is happening within the branch.

The monthly eight bell practices at St Kyneburgha’s, Castor have continued to be well attended and have provided an excellent opportunity for those of us who normally only ring on five or six to improve and widen our skills.  The introduction of one or two special methods have given us all something to work on.

In May we held another “Ring for your Supper” beginning at Warmington, who provided the starter.  This was a particular pleasure as there has been no ringing at this tower for a few years but a new band has been formed and is being well supported by branch members (see Warmington’s entry).  We then moved to Easton on the Hill for the main course.  This is another tower which had been on the fringes of branch activity but is now showing renewed enthusiasm.  Finally we ate our deserts at King’s Cliffe and sampled the newly rehung bells.  Many thanks to everyone who was involved in running this highly enjoyable afternoon and evening.

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Geoff Davis of St Mary’s, Peterborough who will be greatly missed by his tower, the Ringing School and at branch activities where his hearty voice and good humour always cheered proceedings.

Ringing Centre News, August 2012 - February 2013

During the past six and a half years we have had approximately 60 trainees come to us, less than half of this number required teaching from scratch the remainder came to get help in improving their bell handling, to gain confidence and to learn methods up to and including Cambridge Surprise Minor! In order for us to achieve these targets a band of dedicated trainers is required.  For teaching methods we require a minimum of 6 experienced trainers – 5 to ring and one to stand with the trainee.  Fortunately I have a pool of a dozen ringers who are prepared to help and cover for absences, etc.  The hard core of trainers that have been with me from the start include David and Pat Teall, Paul Read and Chris Burgess, Paul is often unable to make Saturday mornings so we supplement this core with Alex Dyer, Stuart Weston, Elaine Wilkinson, Mac Bell, Geoff Davis, James Thorpe and, a recent addition, Nick Elks.

When we first started the tower produced a good supply of replacement stays and we did break a few – no more than half a dozen and we do replace them ourselves.  To pay the tower for the breakages and general wear and tear of the bells and equipment plus heating and lighting, we collect a 50p levy from all attendees each week, this is paid direct to the tower. We may require a major up-date of sensor and computer equipment in the future and would require funds to pay for this.

On Saturday, 26th January, we held a ‘Train the Trainers’ coarse run by a Sue Fallah from Lincolnshire with three trainee mentors and six trainee teachers. Unfortunately Stuart Weston  - one of the trainee mentors - was stricken with flu and was unable to attend.

I submit an annual report to the Central Council (who provided initial funding when the centre was established).  In recognition of its continued success the ringing centre has received a certificate of recognition from the Central Council which has been framed and mounted in the ringing chamber.

Tony Evans

Branch News August 2012 - February 2013

The Branch has held an eight bell practice on the first Friday of each month at St.Kyneburgha’s, Castor.  They have been very well attended with up to twenty ringers of widely differing abilities resulting in methods ranging from Plain Hunt Triples to Bristol Surprise Major.

The Branch AGM scheduled for the end of January had to be postponed due to bad weather, however, it was able to go ahead on February 9th.  Ringing began at Maxey, then on to Glinton for further ringing followed by a service led by Revd. Dr. Hilary Geisow.  The hymns went with a real flourish thanks to Michael Keck on the organ.  We retired to the Village Hall for a magnificent tea laid on by the local band.  Thus fortified thirty plus members assembled for the business meeting chaired by Tony Evans.  Only two branch officers changed, Sally Collop being elected as Secretary and James Thorpe as Ringing Master.  The day was rounded off by further ringing at Glinton.

Branch News August 2012

We have been delighted to host two guild events over the past few months.  On 7th April a large group of cyclists and walkers congregated at Rutland Water to take part in the Annual Sponsored Ride and Ramble.  The Guild AGM came to the Peterborough Branch with ringing at Benefield, Castor and Oundle.  As a branch we have enjoyed another Ring for your Supper, the starter being at Thornhaugh, the main course at Barnack and Pudding at Castor.  What a fantastic evening!  At the end of March David Teall put his schoolmaster’s hat back on to lead a Bob Minor Course at the ringing centre in Castor.  The monthly eight-bell practices have continued to be well attended with a good range of methods.

The Branch Committee felt that we were being left behind in this electronic age and took the decision to embark on its own website which is now up and running thanks to the hard work of David and Sally.

Jubilee Celebrations "Ringing Down the Welland Valley"

The Branch played its part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  Below is attached an account written by someone who followed the cascade of ringing all the way from near Harborough to the Wash


Diamond Jubilee cascade of ringing 4th June 2012

A selection of reports from the various towers:


My wife  and I meandered down the Welland Valley, visiting eleven or twelve of the churches that were ringing, ending up at Surfleet and Fosdyke at the end of the day. The atmosphere in all  of them was wonderful, varying from competently professional to enthusiastic amateur, not least Barrowden, where almost all the ringers had taken up ringing only four months ago in order to participate in the day. 

(CW of SIbbertoft who  had followed the cascade from its source to the sea).


  A wonderful idea . I hadn't rung with any body for years, and thoroughly enjoyed being back, Thank you. CW


Weston by Welland

We had some 20 ringers turn up at Weston and the last group did a touch of Gransire to round off the session, and it all went off very well. I think it brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.



“In Ashley we had quite a number of people in and around the church to hear the ringers which was unexpected and very nice.    The main team from Rothwell were brilliant, of
course.     I was the only Ashley ringer, so I joined in with a young boy from Rothwell in rounds near the end.  I agree with Her Majesty that it was a very touching thing to do”  




I am pleased to record that at Harringworth we rang for 20 minutes between 14 40 – 1500hrs. We rang some very tidy and rhythmic rounds and call changes to include as many ringers as possible. A total of 11 rang, and there were a further 15 visitors in the church watching



“We rang successfully in our allotted time in The Cascade Ring"  Our part went well and we had about 20 of the village looking on. We finished off with Champagne provided  our Vicar.

We had just recently started to ring again  and have three learners. We  were all, however, determined to be part of the project.


Tixover and Duddington

Many thanks for including us in the cascade of church bells. Duddington and Tixover did their bit on time!   A great idea,congratulations



“In Stamford, we could hear the bells approaching from Easton-on-the-Hill, passing through Stamford, out to Uffington and then down to Barnack. It was wonderful!  Within Stamford, the great peals of All Saints and St Martin’s were rung with the 4 bells of St John’s and the single bell of St Mary’s superimposed”. 



 St Andrew's Northborough chimed its two bells starting at 6:45 p.m. on Monday (60 chimes).We were so happy to be part of it and chimed our two bells with pride  Our organist chimed the bells.  A great end to the Festivities!”    





At Crowland the ringing team went to the Crowland "Picnic in the Park" where approx 2,000 people were enjoying Jubilee celebrations which went on into late evening,
culminating in a grand firework display.  



“The eight bells of the parish church of Spalding, St Mary & St Nicolas were rung from 8pm until about 8.30pm    A total of 10 ringers took part and we rang touches of Plain Bob Major and Plain Bob Triples.    Lots of people from church and the community came to listen and watch the ringing, and afterwards we had hot dogs, cake, cider and fruit punch in church.  From outside the church we watched Spalding’s jubilee beacon being lit at 10.15pm on the South Holland Centre across the river, and the evening finished with fireworks from the top of the church tower.  It was a fine, dry evening here, which was perfect for all of this”. 



  What a success! At St. Mary's Pinchbeck we rang from 8.20 to 8.40 and finished with "firing" the bells 12 times. We had a total of 11 ringers who thoroughly enjoyed it followed        by champagne. A concert had taken place in the church before hand with about 200 attending and many stayed and listened to the bells and applauded appropriately. Later many stayed to see our beacon lit on top of the church tower at 10.20.p.m.


The final group ringing at Surfleet was a festive occasion   All 12 bells were rung from 8.40pm to 9.00pm, following a warm up some time prior to our official allotted time span. Rounds and call changes were the order of the day. Tittums and Queens sounded great on all 12 bells. A large group of ringers and visitors joined in the event, which was followed by a celebratory supper of hot dogs, salad and a wide variety of scrumptious cold puddings.  The atmosphere   was buzzing, enjoyed by ringers who took part and visitors who came to support the ringers. We had a rather late but very enjoyable night.



“The  bell in the last church down stream on the river Welland was chimed 60 times just after 9.00 pm.   Thank you for   giving a small church the opportunity to make a mark on the map.



Ringing Centre News, August 2011 - February 2012

This current programme of two-hour training sessions on Saturday mornings started in April 2007, initially to train a band of ringers for Wansford. Unfortunately within three months all had dropped out but in the meantime other people had heard about the centre and joined us. We most certainly did not expect to still be in demand 5 years on!

During this period we have had approximately 50 trainees come to us; less than half of this number required teaching from scratch the remainder came to get help in improving their bell handling, to gain confidence and to learn methods. In order for us to achieve these targets a band of dedicated trainers is required. Unfortunately we are about to lose one of our most dedicated, Richard Laing who is returning to Australia in March. He will be sorely missed.

To show that it is not all work and no play students and tutors all came together for a Christmas Lunch at ‘The Feathers’ and again in February for a Farewell and Thank You party for Richard.

Branch News, August 2011 - February 2012

Since the last newsletter the branch have held a meeting at Benefield followed by lunch in a local hostelry and hosted the Guild quiz night in Woodnewton. The monthly eight bell practices have continued to be well attended and a number of members put their new found skills into practise at the branch ringing for Cathedral Evensong just before Christmas. The AGM was held on January 14th at Bulwick and was attended by 36 members. The service was taken by Benefice Reader, David Teall, a member of the Bulwick band and the organ was played by Michael Kecke, a regular visitor to the Bulwick practice night. Not wishing to be outdone the ladies of the band prepared a sit down meal of casseroles, jacket potatoes and apple pie to warm everyone up before the business meeting. The meeting began by paying tribute to Ernie Orland who died shortly after our last meeting. Thanks were expressed to Robin and Judith Rogers as they retired from their positions. Tony Evans was elected Chairman, Andrew Parker Ringing Master with James Thorpe as Deputy, Sally Collop Tower Liaison Officer and Rita Harris as a committee member. Joyce Smith, Sarah Wood, Keith and Sheila Denison, Keith Dalziel, Steven White, Tom White, Brian and Hilary Harvey were elected as new members. The formal business was followed by further ringing before retiring to the Queen’s Head.