One of our bell ringers, Clive Stephenson, had the honour of ringing at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral on 17thApril. He was actually ringing at St Clement Danes in The Strand, which is the RAF church. The bells started ringing as the funeral procession left Westminster and continued until it’s arrival at St Clement Danes where there was a short service. The coffin was then transferred to a gun carriage and the bells rang again as she continued her journey to St Paul’s for the funeral service proper.
There are 10 bells at St Clement Danes and the bells were rung ‘half-muffled’ as is the custom for funerals. This means that all 10 bells sound once and then again with the sound‘muffled’ which produces a sort of echo – this is a peaceful sound suitable for funerals. If a monarch was to die the bells would be‘fully-muffled’ producing a continuously mournful sound.
Church bells cannot be rung to tunes as they are too heavy but instead they produce their music by continually swapping positions with each other according to a set pattern or ‘method’.The method rung at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral was Grandsire Caters.
St Andrew’s bell ringers have been involved with ringing at St Clement Danes for more than 50 years. St Clement Danes was bombed during the war and when it was re-built in 1958 and had a new set of bells, there were no bell ringers living locally to ring them. A request was sent out to the home counties for teams of bell ringers to ring the bells and, consequently, once a month, we have been sending a team of bell ringers from St Andrew’s to ring on a Sunday morning. Having been part of the ringing at St Clement Danes for such a long time, Clive was very pleased to be asked to ring for Lady Thatcher’s funeral and can report that the bells were rung well as a sign of respect that befits such an occasion.