Soham's peal of Grandsire Caters


On a peal board in Soham’s ringing chamber there is a peal of 5003 “Grandsire Tittum Caters”. It seems to have puzzled ringers as to exactly what this means. One explanation given was that the bells were rung in the tittums change, which is 142536, or 15263748, or 1627384950 whichever number of bells you happen to be ringing. On 9 bells with the tenor “covering”, to get from rounds 123456789(0) to 162738495(0) is difficult and it would’nt have been allowed even in those days, to start a peal with any change other than rounds. What it means is that most of the peal was rung with the back bells in the “tittums” position. Look at the first lead of Grandsire Caters in Fig 1. The back bells are coursing 8,9,7 and this is the order in which they lead. The “tittums” position for the back bells is when they are coursing 7,8,9 and they lead in that order too. If you look at the lead of Grandsire Caters in Fig 2, you can see this very easily. In those days, and indeed today, this position was considered by 10-bell ringers as more musical than the Plain Course. So much did they enjoy this arrangement of the back bells that they had them coursing like this for most of the peals of Grandsire Caters that they rang.

However, this position doesn’t bring up rounds. They had to, as we do today, end in rounds or the peal wouldn’t have been counted as a proper peal. There is, however, an easy way to get the bells back into rounds. You may notice the length of the peal is 5003 changes. Since most peals are even numbers of changes (5040, 5024, 5056, 5152 etc) it means the bells were brought round at handstroke and not backstroke. You can safely do this with things like Grandsire and Stedman. In Grandsire Caters this is how they would’ve done it. They would have called it “round as usual”. But unfortunately that doesn’t help us much. This is how it was done. They would have composed the peal until they’d got the change 142563978. From that change, if you call the 9th into the hunt and leave it there for one lead, and then call a bob at the next lead, the bells come into rounds at the handstroke lead of the treble two leads later. This is often referred to in old ringing books as “9 in and out at 2”. Many composers used this style for their peals and because it was so common to bring the peal to an end in this way it became known as “round as usual”. Nowadays composers have found many musical ways of arranging the back bells, and the “tittums” position, although still widely used, is to some extent less popular than it was. It is a very fitting tribute to Soham’s bellringers of that bygone era that they were sufficiently competent to ring what is still a challenging method! Not many rings of 10 bells could boast this….well done, Soham!

Martin Kitson, March 2017

Photo: Geoff Grayton