What is a Quarter?
We talk a lot about quarters and peals in bell ringing, but what is one?
Haughton has 6 bells and we ring them from the lightest bell (Highest Note - Treble - bell 1) to the heaviest bell (Deepest Note - Tenor - bell 6). We start off ringing them in order 1 2 3 4 5 6, these 6 rings are counted as 1 change. We can then change the order of the bells, but each bell can only move one place. Depending on how many bells are moving (known as working bells) will determine the possible number of changes you can have before you start repeating the sequences.
On 3 working bells there or 6 possible changes
On 4 working bells there or 24 possible changes
On 5 working bells there or 120 possible changes
On 6 working bells there or 720 possible changes
On 7 working bells there or 5040 possible changes
I've stopped at 5040 changes as this number roughly takes about 3 hours to complete and this length was thought to be an ideal length to be called a 'Full Peal'
Full peals can be rung on lower numbers, the extents are just repeated. so on 3 bells, the 6 possible changes would need to be repeated 840 times, 4 bells 210, 5 Bells 42 and 6 bells 7 times.
The possible number of changes can be worked out by multiplying the number of bells together:
1 x 2 x 3 = 6
1 x 2 x 3 x 4 = 24
1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 =120
1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 =720
1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 = 5040
1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8 = 40320
and so on.
A full peal is 5040 changes and will take roughly 3 hours to ring, during this time, the bell ringers can't stop, they can't eat, can't drink and certainly can't go to the toilet.
A quarter peal is 5040 / 4 = 1260 and approximately takes 45 minutes to ring, and so more quarters get rung.
Ringing on different numbers are referred to as stages:
3 bells - Singles
4 Bells - Minimus
5 Bells - Doubles
6 Bells - Minor
7 Bells - Triples
8 Bells - Major
9 Bells - Caters
10 Bells - Royal
11 Bells - Cinques
12 Bells - Maximus
13 Bells - Sextuples
14 Bells - 14
15 Bells - Septuples
16 Bells - 16
There are hundreds of different methods. The most common one is called Plain Bob. Ringing Plain Bob on 4 bells would be called Plain Bob Minimus, on 5 Plain Bob Doubles and so on.
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