The Ilkeston Variation of Treble Bob

Spliced Kent and Oxford Treble Bob has almost disappeared from the tower bell repertoire, except for Minor, but on Major and above it is still actively rung on handbells. "Treble Bob Variations" refers to a style of composition in which there is a basic course of spliced Kent and Oxford in a certain pattern, which is then repeated, perhaps with bobs or perhaps with additional splicing, in order to build up longer touches, quarters or peals.

That's all rather abstract, so let's look at the Ilkeston variation on 8. The course consists of Kent, with Oxford being rung to prevent the tenors from going into the slow. This is what makes it attractive for handbell ringing, because inexperienced ringers find that the slow work is the tricky part of ringing Kent on the tenors.

How does this work? The first lead is Kent, producing the lead end 14263857. The next lead is also Kent, producing the lead end 16482735. Ringing another lead of Kent would result in the 8th becoming 2nd place bell, which is the slow work, so instead Oxford places are rung just before the lead end. This has the effect of swapping the 4th and the 8th, and the lead end is 14678523. At this point the tenors are no longer coursing. However, ringing Oxford places at the beginning of the lead means that the 7th makes 3rds and then courses up after the 8th. Before the next lead end, Kent places are rung, which keeps the tenors coursing and produces the lead end 16457382. Continuing with Kent for another lead produces the course end 15634278.

The way of splicing Oxford into the course of Kent is not by changing method at the lead end, which is what usually happens in spliced, but by replacing the Kent places before and after a particular lead end with Oxford places. This can be described as half-lead spliced, changing to Oxford at the half lead, ringing Oxford all the way across the lead end, and then changing back to Kent at the next half lead. Traditionally the changes of method are called when the treble is in 3-4 down, which gives reasonable notice that the places will be different but doesn't leave enough time for the band to forget that there was a change of method. Because Kent and Oxford are identical except for the 3-4 places, it doesn't matter exactly when the change of method is called.

In the Ilkeston variation, every course has Oxford places around the 3rd lead end. This is sometimes described as "ringing Oxford at 3". I like to call the change of method to Oxford when the treble is in 3-4 down, then call the change back to Kent when the treble is in 3-4 up. I think of the two sets of Oxford places as an extended bob, which lasts for the whole period while the treble is in 1-2. Because it lasts so long, calling the "unbob" (the change back to Kent) is helpful. If I forget to call the change back to Kent, usually another member of the band mentions it and everyone is happy. This suggests that it should be possible to only call the changes into Oxford, and leave the band to realise when the change back to Kent occurs.

Here is the basic course of Ilkeston written out again. The notation is based on half leads. KK means a whole lead of Kent; KO means half a lead of Kent followed by half a lead of Oxford; OK means half a lead of Oxford followed by half a lead of Kent. In other words, KO means Kent places at the beginning of the lead and Oxford places at the end of the lead, and OK is the opposite.

KK 14263857
KK 16482735
KO 14678523
OK 16457382
KK 15634278

The course is 5 leads instead of 7, because the 7th and 8th miss out 2nd and 3rd place bells; they jump directly from 4th place bell to 5th place bell. Notice that the 4th and the 6th each ring an extra lead of slow work (2nd place bell). Also notice that the course end isn't rounds; the coursing order is 46532, so the 4th and the 6th have jumped from the end of the coursing order to the beginning, because they took the place of the tenors in the slow work.

Ringing the basic course 5 times gives a touch of 800 changes without any bobs. Bells 2-6 each ring the slow work 5 times, and the tenors not at all. The tenors are coursing except for a few changes while Oxford places are being rung; they make 3rds before and after the lead end, crossing in 4-5 at the lead end.

Quarter peal and peal compositions can be produced by adding bobs at Wrong, Middle and Home. The Before calling position is not available. Some compositions are odd-looking constructions with few bobs, for example:

1280 Spliced Treble Bob Major (Ilkeston Variation)

M W H  23456
    1  64235
2   1  52436
    1  64523

By including fewer courses and more bobs, there are compositions with bobs in every course, for example:

1280 Spliced Treble Bob Major (Ilkeston Variation)

M W H  23456
2      54326
2 1    52436
2 1    53246
1 2 2  63542
    2  23456

The ending still looks unusual, but remember that between the two blocks of two homes there is an Ilkeston course that changes the coursing order.

The same idea can be used on 10, ringing Oxford at 3 and 4 to keep the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th out of the slow. This gives a 7-lead course in which the 4th and 6th jump over all the back bells, ringing the slow work 3 times each and again producing the coursing order 46532.

KK 1426385079
KK 1648203957
KO 1460892735
OK 1649078523
KO 1467950382
OK 1645739208
KK 1563427890

Ringing this course 5 times gives 1400, which is acceptable for a quarter peal. For something shorter there are many possibilities, for example this one:

1280 Spliced Treble Bob Royal (Ilkeston Variation)

M W H  23456
1 1 1  36524
2 1 1  63254
  2 2  23456

Maximus works similarly, with a 9-lead course.

1296 Spliced Treble Bob Maximus (Ilkeston Variation)

M W H  23456
  2 2  43652
1 2 2  23456

Last autumn I went over to Edinburgh for a peal of spliced Kent and Oxford Royal. I put together a composition that combines the Ilkeston variation with the idea of keeping the back bells coursing, and also keeps 3-4 coursing for most of the peal. In the opening, an 8ths place bob puts the back bells into the coursing order 8709, and then an Ilkeston-like course jumps 9-10 over 7-8 by putting 7-8 into the slow an extra time and keeping 9-10 out. The rest of the peal is Ilkeston, and the closing section uses another 8ths place bob to return the back bells to the standard coursing order, and 4ths and 6ths place bobs to bring the front bells home.

5080 Spliced Treble Bob Royal (2m: Kent and Oxford)


M W H                               234567890
    2  K.K.                         342567890
    %  K.                           236485790
  1    KKK(KO)(OK)KKK.K             532467089
    1  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)KK.        34625
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          25463
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          63542
    1  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)KK.        34256
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          56423
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          23645
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          45362
  1 1  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K.KK.      53624  
2      KK.K.K(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K      26354
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          54632
    1  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)KK.        43265
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          65324
       KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K          24536
    1  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)KK.        43652
    %  KK(KO)(OK)(KO)(OK)K.         523647890
    1  K.                           35264
    &  K.                           23456

%  = 8ths place bob
&  = 6ths place bob

M,W,H refer to the positions in which the front bells are affected.
In the ......7089 block, the 9th is the observation bell for M,W,H.
This is the Ilkeston variation with the back bells in
the coursing order 0987.

9-10 are never in the slow.
7-8  are never in the slow in the 7089 block.
7-8  have 122 leads of coursing.
3-4  have 116 leads of coursing.