UK (University of Huddersfield) Handbell archive finds ideal home in Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay

The art of handbell ringing has found the ideal home for its historic archive at the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay.

The Huddersfield area was once home to some of the world’s best handbell ringers, and now a fascinating collection of artefacts dating back centuries will be housed at the facility in the University’s Schwann Building.

The collection comes courtesy of the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain (HRGB), having been spread out around homes and storage facilities until now and is on display until 5 August in the first-ever national exhibition devoted to tune-ringing on handbells.

“It is a major step forward for us,” says Alan Hartley from HRGB. “It means that the archive is being looked after properly in a controlled environment, rather than houses or storage facilities. It is also available to the public. Before we were formed in 1967, there was very little information and some of the information was in danger of being lost but in Heritage Quay it is available to everybody.

“As soon as I realised there was a possibility of coming to the University of Huddersfield, it seemed the right place. Teams from Crosland Moor, Honley, Woodroyd, Shelley and Almondbury used to dominate handbell ringing competitions, and the area was full of handbell ringing teams. The stars seem to have aligned for us.”

An event on 8 July, ‘Handbells at Heritage Quay’ will celebrate both the exhibition and the collection. It will include a performance by the Clifton Handbell Ringers, a look behind the scenes at Heritage Quay, and a chance to have a go at ringing.

Some of the collection will be on display at Heritage Quay until 5 August. It includes a handbell dating back to around 1700, the trophy presented to winners of the Belle Vue competition in Manchester from 1855 until 1926 and many examples of the unique way in which music is written for handbell ringers.

As many ringers do not read music, tunes are written as sequences of numbers, letters, boxes or as a full score. This means that handbell ringing can be accessible to a wide range of people, and the range of music that HRGB plays epitomises this.