is one of the standard change ringing
Method ringing is a form of change ringing...
methods, which are methods of ringing church bells or handbell
A handbell is a bell designed to be rung by hand. To ring a handbell, a ringer grasps the bell by its slightly flexible handle — traditionally made of leather, but often now made of plastic — and moves the wrist to make the hinged clapper inside the bell strike...
s using a series of mathematical permutations rather than using a melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...
. The Grandsire method is usually rung on an odd number of bells: Grandsire Doubles is rung on five working bells, Grandsire Triples on seven, Grandsire Caters on nine and Grandsire Cinques on eleven.
The method was designed around 1650, probably by Robert Roan who became master of the College Youths change ringing
Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called "changes". It differs from many other forms of campanology in that no attempt is made to produce a conventional melody....
society in 1652. Details of the method on five bells appeared in print in 1668 in Tintinnalogia, the first book to be published on change ringing. By this time R.R. had invented a six-bell extension he named Grandsire Bob, now known by ringers as Plain Bob Minor. The description of Grandsire predates modern method naming conventions. Grandsire on odd numbers of bells (as it is usually rung) would share a name with the method known as Plain Bob on even numbers of bells, if it were invented today.
The plain course of Grandsire Triples takes 70 changes to come back to the beginning, which takes about 2 to 3 minutes to ring. To produce longer lengths, periodic alterations to the method are required. These are referred to as calls, because they are usually announced by the "conductor" or "bob caller". The usual ones are "bobs" and "singles".
The 120 possible changes of Doubles could only be rung by the introduction of single changes---that is, changes in which only two bells change position. Only two such singles
were required. It was unclear whether the 5040 (7!) possible changes of Triples required a similar compromise. Although attempts at Triples compositions appeared in print as early as 1702 and a peal composed by John Garthon was rung in 1718, it was 1751 before John Holt produced the first satisfactory peal. William Henry Thompson, a mathematician, proved in a paper published in 1880 that it was impossible to achieve the 5040 changes using the normal "bobs" only, without the use of singles or some other type of call. This result had long been suspected by peal composers, but it had not been proved before.
Peal length round blocks of Caters and Cinques were more easily achieved. However, the ringing of Grandsire at these stages was limited by the relative rarity of towers with sufficient bells. Caters was first rung to a peal length in 1717 and Cinques in 1725.
Grandsire at all stages is still frequently rung today. It is frequently one of the first methods learnt by new bellringers.