Bristol Surprise Major


(These notes are also available as a pdf. Click here to view. Feel free to copy and use but please acknowledge their source)

Bristol S. Major is completely different in structure from any of the other standard 8 methods.  Unlike Cambridge, Yorkshire etc. it is not based on treble bob hunting.  Instead, it is based on groups of 4 bells working either in places 1-4 or 5-8.

Bristol is a double method.  That means that the work you do on the front you also do on the back but upside down.  This does make learning the method easier in some respects.

It is also different from all of the other standard 8 methods in that it does not have a bell making 2nds at the lead end.  Instead of 2nds, one bell lies behind in 8ths place and, therefore, all the other bells plain hunt through the lead end.

Because Bristol involves points and fishtails, these have the effect of changing whether you lead handstroke and backstroke or backstroke and handstroke.  The latter is usually referred to as leading “wrong” and various other bits of work are similarly “wrong”.  In Bristol Major, all dodges are “right”, i.e. hand and back.  On higher numbers this is not the case.

Bristol is a very elegant method in construction and you meet and work with your course and after bells a lot throughout the method.  If you don’t really understand what is meant by course and after bells, please see the notes on coursing.

The Work

Because of its different structure, Bristol has different elements of work from Cambridge type methods and some of these have commonly used names.

Place, point, place occurs at lead, in 4ths, in 5ths and lying behind.  Because of its likeness to a whole turn in Stedman, it is usually referred to as “Stedman” plus the position it is in, e.g. “Stedman 4ths”

Points and Fishtails.  In various places you will do a single blow in one position before going back in the other direction.  This is called a “point”.  If you do two points, e.g. 1, 2, 1 then it is often called a “fishtail”.

Front work (and back work) occurs where you meet the treble at the back and at the front.  It fits with a fishtail so goes lead, fishtail, lead and there is always a dodge with the treble at the beginning or end.

Lightning work.  5ths and 6ths place bells do this which involves going from front to back (or back to front) with a point at each and with places made in the middle where you pass the treble.

The Place Bells

Look at the line and note where you meet your course and after bells.  When you print off the method, I strongly recommend that you also draw in the lines for your course and after bells using different colours.  This will enable you to see where you work with them.

2nds place bell is the pivot bell.  It starts with the front work, i.e. dodge with the treble, lead right, fishtail with its after bell, lead wrong.  It then goes up to do a point 4ths with its after bell and then back to the front where it leads right.  This is the half lead so it then does the same in reverse i.e. point 4ths with its course bell, front work, dodge with the treble and hunt out to 3rds place bell.

3rds place bell starts by doing a dodge 3/4 up, 4ths, dodge 3/4 down with the treble, 3rds and in to Stedman lead (whole pull wrong, point 2nds, whole pull right).  It then does Stedman 4ths, fishtail 1-2-1 and then dodge 3/4 and hunt out to become 5ths place bell.

5ths place bell starts by doing the lightning work.  It does point 8ths with its course bell, 5ths and 4ths round the treble and point lead with its after bell.  It then goes out to dodge 5/6 up and do a fishtail in 8-7-8.  This is followed by Stedman 5ths and hunting out to 7ths place bell.  You will note that the point where 5ths place bell passes the treble in 4-5 is the pivot point between the work on the front and the work on the back so what follows after this point, because of the double nature of the method, is the reverse of what it has just done on the front but now on the back.

7ths place bell starts by doing Stedman 8ths followed by 6ths, dodge 5/6 with the treble, 5ths and dodge 5/6 up.  It then goes out to dodge with the treble again in 7/8 up and do the back work (lie a whole pull right, fishtail 8-7-8, lie a whole pull wrong).  Next comes point 5ths and back to lie behind.  This lie behind is the lead end and, therefore, another pivot point.  The 2 bells you meet at the back either side of your 8ths are your course and after bells again.

8ths place bell.  As this is the pivot point, you now do the reverse of what you’ve just done in 7ths place bell, i.e. point 5ths, back work, dodge with the treble, dodge 5/6 down, 5ths, dodge 5/6 up with the treble, 6ths.  You now go out to do Stedman 8ths and hunt in to become 6ths place bell.

6ths place bell starts by doing Stedman 5ths followed by a fishtail 8-7-8.  Now comes the lightning work; dodge 5/6 down, point lead, 4ths and 5ths round the treble, point lie and then hunt in to become 4ths place bell.

4ths place bell starts with a dodge in 3/4 down.  It then does a fishtail 1-2-1 followed by Stedman 4ths and Stedman lead.  Next it does 3rds, dodge 3/4 up with the treble, 4ths and dodge 3/4 down then run in to become 2nds place bell.


Bristol S Major has 4ths place bobs.  This has the effect of making the 4 bells at the back dodge instead of hunting.  The dodge puts those 4 back bells into the same leads again.  Look, for example, at 5ths place bell.  Having done all the lightning work it does Stedman 5ths and is about to hunt out to 7ths place bell when the bob is called so it does a dodge in 5/6 up immediately after the Stedman and becomes 5ths place bell again.  Look at 6ths, 7ths 8ths place bells and you will see that they all dodge and return to the start of the same lead.  Methods with this feature are referred to as “repeating lead” methods (Kent Treble Bob is another example).

Of the 3 bells on the front, 2 are unaffected so at the end of 2nds place bell you run out unaffected to become 3rds place bell and at the end of 4ths place bell you run in unaffected to become 2nds place bell.  3rds place bell makes the bob.  The bob is called as 3rds place bell dodges 3/4 up so after dodging it makes 4ths to become 4ths place bell (not forgetting to dodge 3/4 down first!).