York Minster bell ringers row makes national headlines as Dean says bells could be silent till next Easter

The former York Minster bell ringing team in action. Photograph: WTHR / YouTube
13 Oct 2016 @ 5.10 pm
| News

As soon as news broke on social media that York Minster had silenced its bell ringers, it was clear this was going to be a big story.

Picked up by York media, including YorkMix yesterday, the decision has now made headlines in most of the national papers.

The Mail Online reported: “The decision means the Minster’s 56 bells will not be pealing this Christmas – for the first time since 1361.”

Under its headline Ding dong at the belfry, the Telegraph quoted the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers as saying: “Something has clearly gone wrong at York Minster, which is very sad and the Central Council hopes it is resolved soon so that the wonderful bells there can ring out again soon.”

There were similar stories in the Guardian, the Express, on the BBC and ITV.

The decision to disband the 30-strong team of bell ringing volunteers was done as part of the Minster’s ongoing bid to “professionalise” all of its voluntary workers.

But the decision left the ringers in shock, saw some in tears – and has led to accusations that the Dean and Chapter are behaving in an “unChristian” way.

Meanwhile the Dean of York Minster, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, has posted a video explaining the decision – and saying the bells may not chime again till Easter 2017. See below.

Dean Faull explains the decision

We ended bell ringing for the moment, and we look forward to recruiting a head bell ringer who would be working directly with Chapter, and who will be working with Chapter to recruit a band.

We have told our existing bell ringers that we would be very, very happy for them to apply to become bell ringers and part of the new band when that happens.

We know that that can’t happen very quickly, but we do hope we will have a new band in place for Easter next year.

– the Very Rev Vivienne Faull

Hundreds sign petition

The 12 bells in York Minster bell tower including, at the bottom, Great Peter
The 12 bells in York Minster bell tower including, at the bottom, Great Peter

A petition calling for the reinstatement of the bell ringers had gathered more than 1,600 signatures in 18 hours.

It was launched by Alice Etherington. She wrote: “The bellringers are very loyal volunteers who give up hours of their time every week to keep this tradition going, and have represented the Minster in local and national competitions.”

The ringing master Peter Sanderson, involved with the Minster team for 30 years, has written an open letter to the Dean, seen by the York Press. In it, he writes:

As significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter have arisen over the past 18 months I have made numerous offers to meet with you and to work together to resolve them.

You have rejected every one of those offers.

It matters not a jot whether it is me or someone else who leads the band into the next decade but to see this wonderful team discarded by Chapter on Tuesday evening with no warning and in such a brutal fashion was heartbreaking beyond measure.

He offered to meet the Dean at any time to resolve their differences and get the bells ringing again.