Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers

About Dove’s Guide

Dove’s Guide is a resource giving details of all the towers in the world containing bells hung for English style “full circle” change ringing, with an ambition to extend the scope of this resource further.

The following type of bell collections are currently in scope:

Future collection types will be added as part of future development.


The guide is named after Ronald H Dove who produced eight printed editions of his book “A Bellringer’s Guide to the Church Bells of Britain” between 1950 and 1994.

Ron Dove, pictured c1980

Ron Dove was born in 1906 and learnt to ring in Burton-on-Trent in the early 1920s. After school he initially worked in a bank in Stafford but was pleased to indulge his passion for bells and ringing by taking up an opportunity to work at Gillett and Johnston’s foundry in Croydon. In 1933 he left the foundry and the following year he moved to work for Potts of Leeds. He stayed at Potts for the rest of his working life, retiring in 1971.

It was during his time at Croydon that he developed his interest in compiling a reference book on all rings of bells and he started making notes. Moving forward to 1949, a suggestion was made that the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers should publish such a book, and after Dove offered the manuscript to the Central Council, he made the subsequent decision to publish it privately. The publisher was William H Viggers, already known for publishing other material relating to bellringing. In the foreword, Dove stated that his objective was to provide a reliable book of reference for ringers visiting a strange district, and to assist ‘the increasing number of ringers who organise ringing tours and outings’. The published book was announced in The Ringing World on 14 April 1950, and the following week there was a front-page article, which concluded: ‘This is very good value for the charge of 5s. in this handy book, and we hope it will have the popularity it deserves.’

Subsequent additions

The second edition was published in 1956 and was welcomed by a front-page article in The Ringing World stating that the guide had been an instantaneous success but delays in producing a second edition had been caused by difficulties in the printing industry. The binding had been improved, deemed desirable in what was likely to be a well-thumbed book. Interesting new features included a list of post War losses of bells, and transfers of ringing peals. The cost was 6s. 6d. for a standard edition with cloth back and stiff board sides, 9s. 6d. for a library edition with full cloth case, and 12s. for a standard edition interleaved with plain paper. Postage was 6d. for a single copy of either of the first two versions, but 9d. for an interleaved copy.

Other editions followed, each being updated as necessary. The third edition was published in 1962, the fourth in 1968, the fifth 1976, and the sixth in 1982. It was after the sixth addition that Dove’s Guide entered the computer era. John Baldwin arranged for each tower's details to be captured on a punched card, each of which could accommodate just 80 characters.

The seventh edition appeared in 1988, published jointly by Viggers and the Seven Corners Press Ltd and in 1994 the eighth edition was published by Seven Corners Press alone, Bill Viggers having died in the interim. In the foreword, Wilf Moreton mentioned that 34,000 copies of the guide had been sold to date, and that 6,000 copies of this edition had been printed.

Going online

In parallel with the printed editions, John Baldwin continued to maintain the data on his computer with John's son Sid providing invaluable technical assistance, and with Ron Johnston as consultant and co-worker. This enabled a web version of Dove’s Guide to appear online in late 1998 in a site that comprised a simple A-Z gazetteer for rings of 4 and above, with the addition of six-figure OS grid references.

The Central Council ordered the publication of a ninth edition, undertaken by John Baldwin and Ron Johnston. This edition appeared in 2000 with the longer title “Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers to the Ringing Bells of Britain and the World” and featured a foreword written by Ron Dove.

Dove died in March 2001 at the ripe old age of 94, and his records how that he had rung at 5,326 towers, all with five or more bells.

Tim Jackson and John Baldwin in 2017

The Central Council continued to use its resources to safeguard the future of Dove’s Guide with John Baldwin and Tim Jackson appointed as the first “Stewards of the Dove Database” in 2007. Together with Ron Johnston, they maintained the Dove data online and published further editions in 2012 (tenth) and 2018 (eleventh, and most recent). The online version of Dove’s Guide was enhanced with the addition of details of individual bells such as date, founder, weight and diameter, together with details of frames, all of which was a considerable undertaking.

A new database

At that time, the Dove data resided on a local computer at the home of John Baldwin using a system called DataEase, that published reports to a webserver which themselves drove the website. In the interests of improving the security, back up and accessibility of the data, it was agreed that a new database be designed and constructed to hold this data on a backed up web server using modern best practice. Richard Smith joined the team in 2016 to lead the development. The following year, John Baldwin stood down as a Dove Steward, although continued in his webmaster or “DoveMaster” role while the old systems were still operational. Doug Davis and Tim Pett joined the team as new Dove Stewards.

In 2020, the Central Council Executive invited Dickon Love to join the team as a Dove Steward to manage the development project, and lead initiatives to popularise the data. At the end of that year, the development of the new system moved to the point where reliance on the DataEase systems could be stopped.

The future

Further development of Dove’s Guide is planned to extend the scope of the towers and bells to be recorded to include carillons, chimes, mini rings, 1 and 2 bell full-circle towers, and former rings, as well as enhancing the record of bell frames. The ambition is to create a Dove Bell Register to include all bells in places of worship in the United Kingdom in addition to the current scope. There are also plans to allow users to register and log the towers that they have visited. We still expect to publish further editions of the book.

In addition to those mentioned above, the wider Dove Team includes other developers, subject matter experts, and renowned bell historians, all of whom are important in maintaining the quality of this resource. We are also indebted to those in the bell trade for their proactive support in sending us updates.

The Dove Team