Drunken church bell ringing, then and now?

To hear church bells ringing continuously for as long as half an hour, several evenings a week, is no surprise if you live in central Oxford as I do, so I was particularly amused at something I read about today. In 1797 a book called Travels in England During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth was published by the Earl of Orford. It was a translation of a travel account written around 1600 by Paul Hentzner, a German lawyer who set out on a 3-year European tour with his protege, a young Silesian nobleman. Hentzner remarked that the English “are vastly fond of great noises that fill the air, such as the firing of cannon, drums, and the ringing of bells, so that in London it is common for a number of them, when drunk, to go up into some belfry and ring the bells for hours altogether”.

I can only trust that the bell-ringers in central Oxford are law-abiding citizens who live a ‘godly, righteous and sober life’ according to the dictates of the Book of Common Prayer, though as it’s now approaching the end of exams, one does wonder whether some drunken students might have taken it upon themselves to resurrect this old tradition…

No, this isn't Oxford. But it's a nice painting. ~ Bernhard Stange, Das Abendläuten, 1880 ~
No, this isn’t Oxford. But it’s a nice painting. ~ Bernhard Stange, Das Abendläuten, 1880 ~

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