On Saturday 15 March, a bright and sunny morning, 26 Cambridge bellringers gathered at Cambridge railway station to board a train destined for Ipswich. A ringing walking tour had been arranged to visit 5 Ipswich towers. Enthusiasm and anticipation gathered during the hour long train journey.
On arrival in Ipswich, the party headed off towards St Clements church walking along the Ipswich quayside area. We passed several other churches en route – it seems that Ipswich is full of both used and redundant churches. We arrived at St Clement (which dates back to the 15th century and is home to a 8cwt 6), currently a redundant church, the ringing chamber was located on a balcony overlooking the church, which involved only 6 ringers gaining access at any time to attempt a variety of minor methods.
Our next tower was St Nicholas (now a Diocesan Conference Centre hosting a 10cwt 5) a challenge not just in terms of long, springy ropes but also for 26 people to each ring in the space of half an hour. It would be a different matter getting up to ring on these every Sunday morning! Everyone was certainly ready for lunch hosted by the Lord Nelson Inn after an early start and long train journey in preparation for a packed ringing schedule during the afternoon.
We visited St Mary-le-Tower after lunch – it was a terrific privilege for us to ring at a 12 bell tower as visiting ringers. We all benefited from the opportunity to experience ringing on a higher number of bells.
Our next tower was St Lawrence (13cwt 5), this church houses the oldest ring of bells in the world, originally cast in 1440 and recently restored in 2009. We enjoyed ringing a variety of doubles methods on such a nice set of bells.
The final tower of the day was St Margaret of Scotland (13cwt 8), where we had the opportunity to ring some major methods, before boarding the evening train back to Cambridge. We definitely recommend Ipswich as a ringing tour location for a good range of interesting towers and bells with a few challenges all within walking distance of the railway station.
Words by Amanda Cator. Photos by Amanda Cator and Robert Oakeshott.