'It's good to be back' - Bell-ringers head to first final in three decades

The bell ringing band at St Mary le Tower lining up outside Ipswich's civic church

The Ipswich bell ringing band will be heading to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in June - Credit: David Potts

The bell ringing band from St Mary Le Tower, Ipswich's civic church, has reached the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest finals for the first time in 31 years. 

It's been 15 years since the Ipswich team last entered the competition and they took third place on Saturday at Bury St Edmunds cathedral to make it to the national finals at Guildford in June. 

Tower captain David Potts said the team were "delighted" with their achievement, having last rang in the national finals in 1991. 

Preparations were interrupted because of the pandemic, but the team has been rehearsing since November in the hope of competing against the best from across the country. 

Mr Potts continued: "It is a big step up for us. 

"We started preparing for this in November and began a programme of rehearsals and practise. Over the past few weeks we began to get the feeling we could give a good account of ourselves. 

"Ipswich used to compete at this level in the 1980s and 1990s and it is good to be going back.  

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"We had hoped to take part in 2020 but that was cancelled due to Covid. 

"We had a few challenges ourselves, with infections, but we were able to put a good team out on the day. 

"We have exceeded our expectations."

External shot of St Mary le Tower, Ipswich's civic church

St Mary le Tower's bell-ringers will be taking part in the Queen's Jubilee celebrations - Credit: Katharine Salter

For the competition each team had to ring in the same method, known as Stedman Cinques, and be judged against each other for the quality of performance. 

Ipswich took third place and the host Bury team was in sixth place. 

The national final, on June 25, will be between nine qualifying teams plus the hosts. 

The vicar of St Mary Le Tower is Rev. Tom Mumford said: "I am enormously proud of the team. 

"Not only are they incredibly talented but they are also fantastic people. 

"Bell ringing is one of England's greatest traditions and it is a real craft. We treasure it here at the Tower. 

"No matter what happens in June, I know I and Ipswich have the best bell ringing team in the country." 

Ipswich residents can hear the band from outside the church when they are rehearsing on Monday evening at the tower and they will also be playing as part of the town's Queen's Jubilee celebrations in May.