Cambridge or Yorkshire?

Submitted by Simon on Sun, 13/01/2013 - 15:36

Quite a long time ago, I produced tables of the most popular methods for handbell peals of Major, Royal and Maximus, which showed that although Yorkshire Major is more commonly rung than Cambridge Major, the preference is reversed on higher numbers.

Just for fun, here are the five people who have rung the most handbell peals, according to, and the number of peals of Cambridge and Yorkshire they have rung.

Ringer C8 Y8 C10 Y10 C12 Y12
Bernard Groves 34 61 92 63 105 37
John Mayne 10 5 11 2 6 1
David Atkinson 72 101 123 103 27 35
Bob Smith 39 40 53 26 22 3
Roger Bailey 59 88 41 15 13 1

This data confirms my original statement: on higher numbers, Cambridge is more popular than Yorkshire. Why is this, and why do Cambridge and Yorkshire swap places in the popularity rankings when we move from Major to Royal?

I think the preference for Yorkshire Major is largely because the tenors stay fairly close together and the first and last leads of the 7-8 course, in particular, are quite easy to ring. The fact that Yorkshire has Plain Bob half leads also helps, making it easy to check the coursing order at the half lead.

My experience is that Cambridge Royal is easier than Yorkshire Royal, and my hypothesis is that this accounts for its popularity. To see why Cambridge Royal is easier, look at the grids of both methods (diagrams produced by Martin Bright's method printer):

The difference is that in Cambridge, the blocks of treble-bob hunting below the treble extend further towards the back: all the way up to just below the treble. Just as in Cambridge-above methods it's easy to keep everyone synchronised at the back by means of the instructions "dodge above [the treble]" and "hunt above", in Cambridge it's equally easy to keep everyone synchronised below the treble. In Yorkshire it's more difficult to give instructions that apply to everyone.

On a more optimistic note, if we're not assuming that the conductor is having to talk the band through the method, Cambridge is easier to ring because the treble-bob hunting below the treble lasts longer; there are longer periods when you can let one bell waft along without thinking about it. The same applies to Maximus, of course.

The grid shows how close Cambridge is to being a double method. Unfortunately, trying to produce a double method by removing the 12 when the treble in 3-4 doesn't quite work, as you can see here.

After ringing our quarter of Cambridge Royal on Thursday, and discussing the relative merits of Cambridge and Yorkshire, Nick advanced the theory that Lincolnshire is easier than either of them. So we rang half a course of Lincolnshire and it went quite well at the second attempt, despite the fact that none of us had thought much about it in advance. I'll leave an analysis of Lincolnshire and its merits for a future post.


Yorkshire is easier for the tenors on all numbers, as they work closely together, but for the other pairs, Cambridge is often found easier. The principle reason is the consistency of rules guiding you whether to dodge. In Cambridge, on all numbers, dodges are synchronized both sides of the treble. So, if you are dodging with one bell you must dodge with the other, if you are hunting with one, you hunt with the other. The more bells there are, the more helpful a rule like this is. Another reason is that Cambridge shares out the hunting below the treble to other pairs, so more pairs get an easy bit. Nevertheless that means that the tenors to Cambridge Maximus can be tricky as they get split quite far apart. For this reason, many will prefer the 3-4 position, as this is maintained consistently in Cambridge, both above and below the treble. A handbell composition of Cambridge Maximus will sometimes keep 3-4 in the 3-4 position for the whole peal, rather than move into the trickier coursing position. The reason that Lincolnshire can be easier on higher numbers than Yorkshire, is that the opposite rule applies. If you have a bell each side of the treble, if one dodges, the other hunts - and visa versa. This helps you know when to miss the dodges under the treble, which might otherwise be difficult to remember. If you have a bell above the treble that is dodging, then you must hunt below the treble - so when your bell double dodges at the back, you must hunt twice. Yorkshire on higher numbers has the benefit of plain bob coursing below the treble, but unfortunately the dodging rules are inconsistent. You may dodge with both, or you may hunt with one and dodge with the other. This can lead to more trips, and is the reason why Lincolnshire is often rung better than Yorkshire. On the topic of Double Cambridge, the places in 1-2 are the same as the other Cambridge places so doubling the method properly means you should replace the double-dodge at the back with places. This works, albeit giving a non-Plain Bob leadhead. It has only been rung at the Minor stage, and named Loch Cam. It is perhaps surprising that the Major and Royal haven't been rung, given that Reverse Cambridge has been rung at three stages; as Superlative S Minor, Old Superlative S Major, and Old Superlative S Royal. Double Cambridge Surprise Minor -36-14-1256-36-14-56,12 (Loch Cam) Major -38-14-1258-36-1478-58-16-78,12 Royal -30-14-1250-36-1470-58-1690-70-18-90,12 Maximus -3T-14-125T-36-147T-58-169T-70-18ET-9T-10-ET,12