Pickled Eggs: the dustbin

Last week's Project Pickled Egg article discussed the methods from the Standard 8 that are not being included in Simon Linford's proposed new surprise major repertoire. These are Lincolnshire, Rutland and Pudsey. What do we think about this decision, from the handbell perspective?

We have always found Lincolnshire to be a good next step after Yorkshire, and it always seems easier than Cambridge when it comes to quarters and peals. On Wednesday I went to Edinburgh to ring a peal of Lincolnshire with Nick, Jenny and Peter. We did well, especially considering that it was a new combination of people. A point in Lincolnshire's favour is that Lincolnshire Royal is arguably easier than Cambridge, and certainly easier than Yorkshire. Maybe we should try Lincolnshire Maximus instead of Cambridge, next time we manage to organise everyone for a 12-bell project.

Simon Linford suggests Turramurra as a method worth trying. It has some similarities to Lincolnshire but is considered more musical. We'll give it a go some time and report back.

My only comment on Pudsey is that it's somewhat inverse to Yorkshire in terms of which lead is easy for the tenors. Yorkshire Major has the characteristic "tumbling places" in the first and last leads of the course, where the tenors run through each other's places twice. In Pudsey this happens in the middle lead of the course, when the tenors are 6th and 8th place bells. In Royal it's the other way around: Pudsey has tumbling places in the first and last leads, and Yorkshire has them in the middle lead.

We rang a peal of Pudsey with Mike and Ian, and I must confess that we rang it purely because it's in the Standard 8. We also rang a peal of Rutland for the same reason. I don't particularly have anything against Rutland, but I can see the argument that it doesn't add anything in terms of techniques or structures to learn.

Our current project with the Albany Quadrant band is a peal of the Nottingham 8 (London, Bristol, Cambridge, Superlative, Cornwall, Lessness, Cassiobury and Glasgow), which we are going to attempt next Saturday. For practice, on Monday this week we tried a quarter of spliced Cornwall, Lessness, Cassiobury and Superlative. It showed us that we're a bit rusty on Cornwall and Cassiobury, and of course Lessness is new; for added distraction, we were ringing on the heavy back 8 (size 19) of Adam's bells. Lessness has featured in Project Pickled Egg discussions, so I'll write about that another time if it's included.

The PPE discussion has included the question of how to get people to stop ringing the Standard 8 so much and instead try the new set of methods. Don Morrison has commented that in the North American Guild there has already been progress towards different methods, with Cornwall starting to replace Cambridge as a first surprise major method. I think the Scottish Association has some similarities with the North American Guild: we have relatively few towers, with quite a geographical spread (although on a far smaller scale), and a relatively small but committed and enthusiastic membership. The proportion of our members who come out for association events is very high in comparison with a typical large association in England. Anyway, what all this means is that fewer people need to be convinced to try a different set of methods. I'm the SACR ringing master, so if I don't want to ring Rutland at association meetings, that's in my power! We have already had Cornwall as a special method at a couple of meetings, and last month I ran a 10-bell method-learning workshop based on extensions of Cornwall.

At practice night in Glasgow, when we can manage it, we tend to ring a touch of 8-spliced (standard 8) as a treat for the more experienced ringers. There always has to be some brushing up on Pudsey, so it wouldn't take much to change the set of methods. We've got as far as putting the lines for Cornwall, Lessness and Turramurra on the whiteboard in the ringing chamber. Let's see what we can do with a combined assault on both handbells and tower bells. 

Handbells for sale

Adam Shepherd is selling a set of handbells. There are 21 bells in total, consisting of a diatonic 17 with a 19F tenor, and four additional bells. There's an impressive choice of rings: a sixteen, a fourteen, three different twelves (tenors 19F, 18G and 15C), four different tens (tenors 19F, 18G, 15C, 12F), five different eights (tenors 19F, 18G, 15C, 14D, 12F) and seven different sixes (tenors 19F, 18G, 15C, 14D, 12F, 11G, 8C).

The bells are by Shaw of Bradford, and date from the late 19th century. Adam bought them in 1997 and had them refurbished by Taylor's, with new clappers and handles. Taylor's also replaced three of the bells. Adam bought such a large set because he was into ringing 14 and 16 bell peals in the late 90s and early 2000s, but he hasn't rung them for about the last 15 years.  

Tina and I thought about buying them, because we liked the idea of a set by a different founder (we already have a Taylor set and a Whitechapel set). We borrowed them for a try-out, and last Monday we rang a peal of Bristol on the eight in size 12F.

The bells are lovely, easy to ring with a nice "tap", and quieter than our own sets. They are tuned somewhat sharp of standard pitch, but they are all in tune with each other and the Taylor bells are a good match. Julia was disturbed by the non-standard pitch, but I don't think most ringers would find it a problem. 

Eventually financial sense prevailed and we have decided that we don't need any extra bells at the moment, and certainly not so many. If we really do want a Shaw set, we can keep our eyes open for one with fewer bells. So Adam's bells are still for sale. Maybe readers (if we still have any!) might be interested, or might know someone who would be interested. It's hard to say what the price should be - there isn't a very active market in second-hand handbells, and it's not a question of simply looking up the theoretical price as one can with cars. A new set of Taylor bells with all the same sizes would be about £6800.

Adam lives in Edinburgh, but the bells are likely to remain at Albany Quadrant for a little while. His plan is to take them to his parents' house in Birmingham with the idea that buyers can view and collect them from there. Meanwhile, if anyone in Scotland is interested in them, we could arrange a viewing and try-out.

Pickled Eggs: Chesterfield

I've always liked Chesterfield, and I think it's a good candidate for including in the Surprise Major repertoire as an introduction to wrong-place methods. I encountered it as part of Crosland's spliced series. Actually it occurs in two series by Richard Crosland: a series from 4 to 12 methods, which I rang on handbells in the Imperial College days, and as the C in the alphabet spliced series, which I've rung on tower bells but has perhaps never been rung on handbells.

Chesterfield is Cambridge above the treble, so it's a natural progression from Cambridge and Yorkshire, but with the opposite place bell order. It's the same place bell order as Cornwall, but with a 2nd place lead end instead of Cornwall's 8th place. If we think of Cambridge, Yorkshire and Cornwall as the first three methods in the new repertoire (possibly with Yorkshire and Cambridge exchanged for handbells), then Chesterfield returns to a familiar work above the treble, keeps the place bell order of Cornwall, and introduces a wrong-place section when the treble is in 7-8.

The wrong-place section consists of wrong hunting on the front 4, and combined with the x14x section when the treble is in 5-6, it produces a four-bell frontwork a little like that of Bristol. The points occur one blow further away from the half lead, which means they are on the opposite stroke from the points in Bristol. Nevertheless, the fact that four bells are doing points simultaneously is a good anchor, and when one's bells are both on the front, they are either coursing or in the opposites position on the front four, which are equally easy.

The in-course (without singles) falseness is B, the same as Yorkshire, so it should be possible to obtain handbell-friendly compositions by rearranging compositions of Yorkshire for the reversed place bell order, if there are no bobs Before. The Wrong calling position comes before the Middle. For example, the "delightfully easy" composition of Yorkshire by Bernard Taylor can be arranged by starting half way through and exchanging Wrongs and Middles, then moving the block of three Homes so that it's still at the end. Here is the result, which still has 12 courses of coursing for 3-4 and 5-6.

6048 (5152) Chesterfield Surprise Major
Bernard H Taylor, arranged by Simon J Gay

23456   W   M   H
42635   -   -
34625   -   3
23645   -   3
62534   -   -
52436  (3)  -
63254   2   2
56234   -  (3)
25463   -   -
45362   3   -
35264   3   -
23456   -   -   3      
Omit both (3) for 5152.

I haven't considered the musical possibilities of Chesterfield, but that's not usually my priority for handbell compositions. For a quarter peal composition, after a bit of searching I haven't come up with anything simple that's better than wrong home wrong, so I would stick to that.

For reference, here are the lines for each handbell pair.

Pickled Eggs: getting ahead

Instead of waiting to comment on each instalment of Simon Linford's analysis of Surprise Major methods as candidates for a new standard repertoire, I'm going to get ahead by discussing some candidates of my own - from a handbell perspective, of course.

One way to come up with candidate methods is to look at classic compositions of spliced, on the assumption that their composers gave some thought to the choice of methods.

Pitman's Four

This ever-popular composition of London, Bristol, Cambridge and Superlative has been around since 1947, with a second version in 1968. Tina and I rang it on handbells in 1998. I thought about learning it for our peal with Julia next Monday, but instead decided to focus on learning Graham John's one-part composition of the Nottingham Eight; so we are going for Bristol on Monday.

Simon Linford has already decided that Cambridge is in the selection. There seems to be discussion of Superlative on Facebook at the moment. Let's have a look at each method.


I don't think Simon will manage to exclude Bristol from any credible proposal for a set of standard methods. Apart from being a much-loved method on 8, it leads to Bristol Royal and especially Bristol Maximus, which is the touchstone for measuring progress as a 12-bell ringer, at least on tower bells. From the handbell point of view, Bristol is good for developing a structural approach to ringing, with its synchronised points at the front or back four times during a lead, and its blocks of four-bell forward and backward hunting. There's a huge range of musical compositions, as well as several easy compositions for handbells (for example, the ones I discussed here).


I think London is also hard to exclude because of its classic status. It's a real challenge on handbells, and certainly the hardest of the Standard Eight. However, it has good structural features: whereas Bristol is anchored by the points, in London it's all about the fishtails. There is also some good coursing order around the lead end (albeit reversed) and the half lead, which helps with conducting. On higher numbers, the fishtails involve more bells, which helps stability. If we think about the extension route to London No.3 Royal and then Newgate Maximus, the backwork gets filled in with treble bob hunting and the frontwork consists of longer periods of wrong hunting on four. Although Newgate isn't much in vogue these days, it does have a similar frontwork/backwork structure to Phobos and Zanussi, so it can be seen as a pathway towards the modern Standard Eight maximus. My vote is for London to be in the repertoire, but there is scope for discussion of which methods should precede it as gentler introductions to wrong-place work.


Despite its presence in Pitman's Four, I don't think Superlative has enough merit to be included. Its inclusion in the Nottingham Eight is perhaps as a legacy from Pitman's Four. It does have a clear regular structure, as the place notation within each half lead consists only of 36, 14 and 58. This is good for those who like to ring by place notation. Indeed, even after I had given up ringing purely by place notation, I found it so awkward to ring 3-4 places and 5-6 places simultaneously in Superlative that when I found myself ringing, for example, 4th and 5th place bells, I would step carefully through the place notation for half a lead and then pick up the lines again afterwards.

One of Simon Linford's criteria is to have a progression of methods that introduce new concepts or new skills. I don't think Superlative does that. Like Cambridge and Yorkshire, it's right-place; it has the same place bell order; it's a double method, but that's also true of Bristol, and in any case the double structure is not always helpful when learning methods. Another argument against Superlative is that its extensions aren't popular. There are two versions of Superlative Royal: Superlative No.2 is usually preferred to Superlative No.1 in compositions of the Standard Eight Royal, but both of them seem peculiar, and Superlative Maximus is hardly ever rung (although it has occasionally been used in the National 12-Bell Striking Contest).

In conclusion, for my preference, London and Bristol are in, but Superlative is out.

London and Double Norwich

First item: we rang a quarter of London yesterday, with Angela on the tenors instead of the trebles. It took us a few attempts to get this one (but I must confess that last week's attempt was going really well until I skipped a lead and systematically put everyone else wrong). Jonathan called it from 5-6, with a not particularly handbell-specific composition, which was a good achievement.

After that, we rang a course of Double Norwich with the specific idea of thinking about how we rang it. In the tower, it's not rung as much as Surprise Major, but everyone seems to have the idea that Surprise Major ringers should be able to ring it. There are several approaches. One is to simply treat it like any other method, and learn the line by place bells. Another is to ring it by where you pass the treble: double dodge at the front and back unless the treble is there; move from a double dodge to far places or from no dodge to near places. Yet another is to rely on a half-remembered mnemonic: near, full, far, first, treble bob, last. This usually requires some discussion of what the mnemonic means.

A few years ago we rang a peal of Double Norwich in the tower at Glasgow, and while practising for it, it seemed that the ringers relying on structure and mnemonics weren't ringing it as well as those who just learned the line. This led me to formulate the principle that if your bell is always in the right place, no-one will ever question your internal technique, but if your bell isn't in the right place, you can expect to be given advice about how to do better, whether you want it or not.

Double Norwich is rung even less on handbells than it is on tower bells. I remember ringing a quarter of it in the distant past, but I haven't rung a peal. BellBoard lists 771 tower bell peals and only 51 handbell peals. The grid shows a regular and simple structure of boxes around the treble, which invites a structural approach to ringing - and the mnemonics seem much less attractive for handbells, because of the need to apply them to two bells.

I decided to ring explicitly by place notation, stepping through the sequence: 14, 36, 58, 18, 58, 36, 14, 18 (there's no need to think about the X at every handstroke). I found that I could think ahead and predict the double dodges and sequences of hunting. Of course, it's impossible to ignore the prior knowledge of double dodges at the front and back, which helps.

The rest of the band reported similar approaches, with various blends of thinking about the place notation and thinking more visually in terms of the boxes around the treble. We rang a plain course very well. It must be admitted that after a quarter of London, almost anything else seems fairly straightforward in comparison.

It's often said that plain methods seem very fast-moving when one is more used to surprise. Several times during the course, I had to stop myself telling the treble to dodge. Hunting at the half lead and lead end also makes for rapid movement, although we should be accustomed to that from ringing Bristol.

It might be fun to ring a peal of Double Norwich one of these days. It does feel like a gap in the peal-ringing CV. So many potential projects! 


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