CAMPANOLOGISTS have been rewarded for roping fresh faces into the 400-year-old tradition.

Abingdon Society of Bell Ringers has been nationally commended for passing the centuries-old skill of chiming church bells onto a new generation.

The group, based at St Helen's Church in Abingdon, won a £400 prize for youth work from the Association of Ringing Teachers.

Tower captain Brian Read, who has enjoyed the hobby for more than 40 years, said: "There is a pressing need to recruit youngsters; everybody else is getting old.

"Bell ringing is a great activity for teenagers but has to compete with all the other things they get up to. I think we've been successful by getting groups of them together and making it fun."

The retired scientist, who lives in central Abingdon with wife and fellow bell ringer Susan, said he was 'very pleased' to win the Sarah Beacham Youth Group Award.

He added: "We've got a nucleus of about six to a dozen youngsters who come in on a Friday night. It's a great hobby - it's social and it's a physical skill that is not easy to master. It's challenging and unusual but it's very rewarding."

Mrs Read, who is teaching team leader at the society, said she was 'absolutely thrilled' about the award.

The retired accountant said: "We go to some fascinating buildings and see parts of them that nobody else sees. I also love the social side of it - the people I've learnt with through this have turned out to be friends for many years. You can go practically anywhere in the country and you have a ready-made group of friends there."

Groups across the country had to apply for the award, but the Abingdon society trumped competitors at a ceremony earlier this month.

The prize will be put towards a piece of training kit called a dumbbell.

The society will run a course in the Easter school holidays especially for anyone aged between 10 and 15 years-old.

Anyone interested in booking onto the course can email Mrs Read on

Those who want to find out more can arrange a tour of the tower with their parents on Friday, March 31.