The Most Popular Handbell Methods on 6

I have been doing some analysis of the most popular handbell methods, as measured by numbers of peals. The data comes from Andrew Craddock’s excellent PealBase goes back to 1954 at the moment, and in order to consider complete years, I have stopped at 2010. So that’s 57 years of data, including a total of 24,526 handbell peals. (The total number of peals during the same period is 242,984).


Here are the Top 20 methods. “Spliced” includes all peals in more than one method, even those that are not normally reported as spliced (e.g. 7 minor in separate extents). The percentage is out of all handbell peals on 6 bells.

Rank Method Peals %
1 Spliced Minor 3509 50.5
2 Plain Bob Minor 1950 28.1
3 Spliced Doubles 309 4.4
4 Cambridge Surprise Minor 201 2.9
5 Plain Bob Doubles 110 1.6
6 Kent Treble Bob Minor 108 1.6
7 Grandsire Doubles 103 1.5
8 Oxford Treble Bob Minor 96 1.4
9 Stedman Doubles 39 0.6
10 London Surprise Minor 35 0.5
11 St Clement's College Bob Minor 32 0.5
12 Double Bob Minor 25 0.4
13 Norwich Surprise Minor 17 0.2
14 Single Oxford Bob Minor 15 0.2
15 York Surprise Minor 12 0.2
16 Bourne Surprise Minor 12 0.2
17 Netherseale Surprise Minor 8 0.1
18 Double Oxford Bob Minor 8 0.1
19 Reverse Bob Minor 8 0.1
20 Durham Surprise Minor 7 0.1

I want to look at the data in more detail in a future post, especially to do some breaking down by year. Here are a few initial comments.

Spliced Minor has always been popular, but really took off in the late 1990s, following the development of new compositions allowing the "Standard 41" Surprise Minor to be rung in a normal peal length. Peals of Doubles were more popular in the 1950s and 1960s, but are relatively rare nowadays.

My impression is that the popularity of methods for handbell peals can be significantly affected by the activities of particular bands, in a way that is much less likely with tower bell peals. For example, from the 1950s to the early 1960s there were a lot of peals of Spliced Doubles, and I’m guessing that many of them involved the same people.