Team History

Inception and Early Years:
The story of the Clifton Handbell Ringers began around 1890 when a group of passionate individuals, drawn together by their shared love for handbell ringing, decided to form an ensemble that would resonate with the community. Our journey began with a handful of bells, a vision for musical excellence, and an unwavering commitment to artistic expression.  The band was composed of male members of Clifton Parish Church. Under the guidance of Mr James Fearnley, a Clifton joiner, they began by playing a few simple tunes with about two dozen bells belonging to Clifton Parish Church, St. Johns. Their efforts were popular and their membership grew, as did their fame

Harmonious Growth:
In the subsequent years, the Clifton Handbell Ringers experienced harmonious growth, both in membership and musical prowess. Our repertoire expanded, encompassing a diverse range of genres, from classical compositions to contemporary arrangements. This growth was not only musical but also fostered a sense of camaraderie and collaboration among our members, turning the ensemble into a close-knit musical family.

The Clifton Handbell Ringers soon became a familiar presence at local events, churches, and community gatherings, captivating audiences with our unique sound and impeccable precision. Our commitment to excellence in handbell ringing became synonymous with the name Clifton Handbell Ringers.

The Bell Vue contest, with a first prize of £20, was the most important annual competition and for many years, around the turn of the century, Clifton entered one, sometimes two teams. They came second once and third twice, however, first prize eluded them. In the early 1900s the team entered but they were unplaced; the adjudicator commenting that the bells were out of tune. Fund raising was carried out across the village and in 1907 a brand new five and a half octave set of bells was ordered from Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel. Receipts show that the band paid £120.10s.0d for the set of 195 bells. They were despatched by goods train, from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London to Brighouse Station on 14 May 1908 with a note saying,
“We have done our best to make an exceedingly good set of bells and are confident that all the members of the band will be pleased with them”.

Artistic Milestones:
Over the years, the ensemble achieved significant artistic milestones, pushing the boundaries of handbell ringing and exploring innovative ways to connect with our audience. Collaborations with local musicians, participation in regional and national handbell festivals, and the introduction of original compositions enriched our repertoire and showcased the versatility of handbells as a musical medium.

We’ve had the honor of sharing our music with diverse audiences, spreading the joy of handbell ringing far beyond the confines of our rehearsal space. Each performance has been a testament to our dedication to the art form and a celebration of the unique, resonant quality of handbells.

The Yorkshire ‘off-table’ teams around this era preferred fewer ringers in a team, it helped make the band more exciting to watch and melody lines were shared between as few ringers as possible to help with the interpretation of musical passages and to make the overall effect more fluent. A lot of the music that they played still survives today and shows us that the team were of a highly proficient standard.

The start of the Great War in 1914 brought about the demise of the original Clifton Handbell Ringers and the team disbanded on the 21st of February 1915 and the bells were put into storage at a local mill. The bells remained there for 60 years until rediscovered by Mr. Peter Fawcett who was researching the history of the original team. He realised that there were 50 bells missing, however he cleaned and repaired what bells he could and gathered together a small group of enthusiasts The present Clifton Handbell Ringers was re-established in 1975 and shortly afterwards a junior team was formed.

Leadership and Vision:
Central to our success has been the visionary leadership of our musical director.
Under their guidance, the Clifton Handbell Ringers have flourished, evolving into a dynamic ensemble that continues to push the boundaries of handbell artistry.

Our commitment to fostering a supportive and collaborative environment has been a guiding principle. As new members join our ranks, they bring fresh perspectives, contributing to the ongoing evolution of the Clifton Handbell Ringers.

In 1978 a junior team was formed. This team is still in existence but it is now called Clifton Village Handbell Ringers.

In 1980 the full set of 155 bells, covering 5 octaves, was returned to Whitechapel for full refurbishment. A third team, mainly consisting of senior citizens, was formed in 1986. To ensure the future of the organisation, funds were raised and, combined with help from various funding bodies, enough money was raised to ensure delivery of 140 new handbells in March 2001 and June 2004 replacing the set dating from 1908.

Looking Forward:
As we reflect on our journey so far, we are filled with gratitude for the support of our community and the shared passion that unites us. The Clifton Handbell Ringers look forward to the future with excitement and anticipation, eager to continue our mission of bringing the joy of handbell ringing to audiences far and wide.

Join us on this resonant journey. Experience the history. Feel the music. Welcome to the Clifton Handbell Ringers family!