Part of the pattern: Class and society reflected in the English art of change ringing

Elizabeth E Wein, University of Pennsylvania


Is it possible for a voluntary society that perceives itself as leveling and egalitarian to become so simply because it considers itself in that light? Through methods gleaned from folklore, social history, performance theory, and ethnomusicology, this dissertation uses change ringing to show ways in which class conflict has operated in English society over the past four hundred years, and proves that music can be used both to reinforce and to break down class consciousness. Over the four hundred years of its existence, change ringing has followed periods of ebb and flow, which have consistently been connected to social conditions at the time. Originally ringing was a sport, an exercise, an art, and a means for socializing. Gradually the obvious connection with the church bells made it apparent that ringing was in fact a service to the church, and that the mere act of performing upon any church's bells was fraught with religious significance in the minds of the clergy and often the common people. Because of this, an attempt was made by the clergy to draw ringers into the fold. The impetus for proving change ringing a service to God came from outside the ringers, not from the ringers themselves. In the twentieth century the two attitudes seem to have merged--ringing is both a hobby or a pastime and a service to the church. Based on results gleaned from studying change ringing within the Oxford Diocesan Guild, the Oxford Society, and the North American Guild, it appears that today ringers are aware of the duty they are expected to perform, and many feel that when they ring they are indeed doing it for the church. But few ring only because it is an act of worship. They ring because they enjoy it, not because they are called or chosen.

Subject Area

Folklore|Cultural anthropology|Music

Recommended Citation

Wein, Elizabeth E, "Part of the pattern: Class and society reflected in the English art of change ringing" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9503847.