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Cropredy, in the North of Oxfordshire, is one of a few towns in the UK that still regularly ring its curfew bell.  In the case of Cropredy, it is now rung by one of the parishoners after the eight o’ clock chimes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Bells rung by hand make a very different sound than those automatically hit by a mallet, and this difference can easily be heard on this occasion, as the preceding on-hour chimes are struck automatically (being hardwired to the church clock mechanism).  In contrast, the curfew bell is rung by pulling on the tenor bell’s bell rope, which in turn makes the bell in the tower (one of eight) swing, and it is this swinging that accounts for the main difference in the sound.

For me, there are two aspects that make this listening experience so interesting.  The first is the irregularity of the ringing – a natural byproduct of being rung by one person over a sustained length of time (around five minutes) resulting in each ring having a slightly different volume or placement in time – a welcome change to the exacting automation that we are used to these days.  And, secondly, the enharmonic build up as the bell is continually struck for the length of the curfew ringing.  (It is more common to hear a bell struck once and for its sound to die down in between each ringing).

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