'Ring for the King': Volunteers needed to help with royal coronation

On coronation day, church bells will ring out across England as part of a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.
Posted at 5:36 PM, May 04, 2023

For centuries, it's been the soundtrack to life in England. From the smallest villages to the largest cities, there are more than 5,000 towers with at least three bells in each.

What Sue Threlfall doesn't know about bell ringing isn't worth knowing. 73 years after a teacher asked her is if she wanted to try it out, she's still going strong.

She'll be part of the band at Holy Trinity Church marking King Charles' coronation. 70 years ago, she did the same for his mother.

"It was a very busy day because we started ringing at 6 o'clock in the morning, then we rang at a different church in the afternoon, and we went on a girl guide parade in the middle of the day," said Threlfall. 

A recruitment drive called "Ring For The King" has helped boost interest in bell ringing, as the volunteers who keep this tradition alive look for new hands to mark the coronation.

It's a tradition that dates back centuries. The three oldest bells in the church were cast in 1723 — that's nine years before George Washington was born. Good bell ringing requires teamwork, timing and practice. 

"We kind of equate it to riding a bike, it looks easy, but when you try it turns out to be a bit harder than you think. So you've definitely got to commit to getting past the challenge of learning to ring. It looks really sedate and serene when everyone's experienced ringers, but it can actually be quite scary when you first start, so you've definitely got to be braver than you think to give it a go," said Caroline Watson, a bell ringer.

There's still a national shortfall of bell ringers, but the recruitment drive has attracted around 1,000 new volunteers, all keen to mark the next chapter of English history and keep this ancient tradition alive. 

A cardboard cut out of the late Queen Elizabeth II on display as people camp along the King's Coronation route

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