The X-File (No.8) - Birmingham 12-bell Retrospective

They looked to the stars to bring us Orion and Rigel ..........

They used the appliance of science to bring us Zanussi ..........

They went train-spotting to bring us Fenchurch .........

The method designers from Birmingham are renowned for innovation and experimentation, particularly on 12 bells and above, and the recent publication of a composition of Ariston reminded me that whilst method reviews stopped for a time, the tradition continued. Here, in a special edition of the X-file, we go back in time to investigate the unopened files from 1994 and Ď95. Please be warned: these files are not suitable for the squeamish!




Rung at







St Philipís


D J Pipe





St Philipís


D G Hull





St Martinís


R W Pipe





St Philipís


D G Hull


Rea Valley



St Philipís


D J Pipe





St Philipís


R W Pipe


Spirit of Birmingham



St Philipís


R W Pipe





St Philipís


D J Pipe





St Martinís


R W Pipe


Note: All the methods are cps in-course.

Lysian Alliance Maximus : 34x5.4x5x36.4x7.8x1x9.8x9.E lh 1T

If points are your poison then Lysianís your method. A course contains 72 in all, and also finds time to contain plenty of hunting (although not much dodging) to produce an interesting, if not particularly flowing, blue-line. The backwork uses the "Mottram" start, whilst the points on the front around the half-lead occur a blow earlier than in Bristol (in effect), with the bells wrong-hunting whilst 11ths is made. Coursing pairs are continually together at both front and back, and this ensures that the roll-up count is high, including 5 567890ETs at the back and 3 TE098765s off the front. 4ths place calls give a six lead course, giving plenty of compositional scope, but always having to look for points could make this a little tedious to ring after a while.

Cardassian Alliance Maximus : x5. lh 1T

To many, the plethora of points and places that makes up the blue-line of Orion may look as though it is just complicated for complicateds sake. That, of course, is far from the truth. Orion contains a number of innovative musical features, of which perhaps the most notable is the production of 658709ET roll-ups, without contiguous places. Several methods have since attempted to emulate this feature with varying degrees of success and Cardassian is one of these, in fact increasing by 100% the number of said roll-ups in the plain course (to 2). The front-work is more straightforward, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Lysian around the half-lead, but without the points. With plenty of out-of-course courses available to boost the little-bell music at the back, and a 2-lead course produced with 4ths place calls, this is a worthwhile addition to the "Orion-style" library. Bluff-old-traditionalists will probably still prefer the original though.

Lynx Little Alliance Maximus : x3.2x1x2.3x2. lh 1T

Mmmm........ a non-plain-bob lead-head? Looking at the figures for the plain-course of Lynx reveals nothing of any merit, whatsoever. Write out a lead starting from 13527496E8T0, however, and all becomes perfectly clear. Having produced 4 567890ETs, 6 bells remain above the treble to hunt around and rotate themselves to produce 4 2TE09876s in the second half of the lead. Combine one lead of Lynx with 10 of Bristol and Maypole and you have one part of 11 with a part end 167890ET2345, with no calls other than changes of method. Clever stuff, and without having to thrash through duff leads to get from one part-end to the next.

Ariston Alliance Maximus : x3x4x2x3.4x34. lh 12

Contrary to popular belief, this method does not go "on and on". Ariston uses the "York" start, with the bells at the back fishtailing whilst the treble is in 56. The treble then hunts straight to the back, whilst the bells on the front do points and then hunt to wrong double-dodges over the half lead. The blue-line scores 8/10 for interest, and with lots of roll-ups (8 567890ETs at the back, 3 TE098765s off the front), music gets 8Ĺ. Ariston was originally designed to be rung in spliced, but with the right composition (not necessarily as difficult as the published one) it can be good as a single method too.

Rea Valley Alliance Maximus : x5x4.5x5.36x4. lh 1T

Apart from missing the dodges when the treble misses its in 78, Rea Valley is Bristol above the treble, and also therefore the same lead-end order. Below the treble an attempt has been made to introduce some 90ETs in addition to the expected roll-ups, and this is at least partially successful. However, the 2 90ETs that result are at the expense of a number of conventional roll-ups and the blue-line has a distinctly disjointed feel to it. 10/10 for trying, 4/10 for results - stick to Bristol I say.

Lostrib Alliance Maximus : x5x4.5x5. lh 1T

For the first nine changes of Lostrib, one could be forgiven for thinking one was ringing Bristol. Then, however, the 2nds place bell (or "Lost Rib") starts plain-hunting and doesnít stop until it gets to the back, producing the half-lead 43658709TE12. The effect is to produce Bristol-style music above the treble and a mix of standard and non-standard music below, including a TE098765 and a TE0987 as well as 3 E0987654s. Crossword enthusiasts will like the name too.

Spirit of Birmingham Alliance Maximus : x5x4.5x5.36.4.58x7.8x8.9.8x8.9 lh 12

A popular feature of many Birmingham methods has been that of having 8 coursing bells wrong-hunting a complete plain hunt on 8 whilst the treble is at the back. We find this feature here combined with a Bristol start and a seconds-place lead-head to produce an attractively simple a-group method. By using non-standard calls (1290 singles), the same 8 bells can be kept on the front for a number of leads at a time, allowing copious quantities of 8-bell runs to be produced in a peal length.

Provost Alliance Maximus : 3x3.4x2x3x4x5.36.7.8x8.9x8x9 lh 12

With virtually "London" above the treble, and Bristol-type points before and after the half-lead, Provost is really a hybrid of two earlier Birmingham methods, Halley (1986) and Bowyer (X-file 4). Whilst it is a good method in its own right, the only real advantage it has over its parents is that, with the treble missing just 78, a 44 change lead is produced allowing some unusual lengths (including a 5060 for the Provost of Birminghamís 60th birthday) to be composed.

Melbury Alliance Maximus : x5x4.5x5.36.4.58x7x9x9 lh 12

Without wanting to sound too damning, Melbury is a means to an end. With Spirit of Birmingham work above the treble (without the dodges around the half-lead) and multiple dodges on the front (6 in 12 and 34, 5 in 56 and 3 in 78), the method is designed purely to produce lots of roll-ups (the first lead has 4 23456789s off the front). The composition, which cleverly used some tenths place calls, had, I believe, 24 roll-ups backwards and forwards, front and back, of each group of 8 bells - 2 to 9, 3 to 10, 4 to 11, and 5 to 12 - surely the highest 8-bell roll-up count yet. So, it may be contrived, but, hey, who cares when youíve got 384 roll-ups?

With acknowledgements to those young chaps, Hull and Pipe, for their assistance during these investigations.

This file is now closed.


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