The Guild of Devonshire Ringers



MARCH 1998

RINGING ROUND DEVON is the occasional newsletter of The Guild of Devonshire Ringers, and is circulated free to all affiliated towers through branch secretaries.

Any individual members who wish to purchase a copy should contact Lester Yeo. The cost is 2 pounds for four issues.

Items for inclusion will be welcomed by the editor.


December's magnificent Devon ringers' carol service was the last to be held at Buckfast Abbey. This year's service will be at Exeter Cathedral, and a small committee is being set up to plan it and to ensure that there is a fair representation of method and call-change ringers in the proceedings.

At the Abbey, not only were there many ringers from the county, but also a contingent from the Truro Diocesan Guild which was celebrating its centenary, including Fr Malcolm Bowers, the Guild president, seen here with Preb John Scott and the Revd Bob Southwood. Devon Guild and Association members were involved in the service and the bells were put to good use beforehand. The twelve were mostly rung, although there was also some Grandsire Caters, but access to the tower was strictly controlled. The Mudge family once more opened the service with some well-struck Grandsire Triples on handbells, and the music was arranged by Ian Avery.


Popular Guild president Robert Southwood has announced that he will not be standing again at the next meeting. He made this announcement at the General Committee meeting in January, having served as Guild president since Brian Pidgeon retired in 1986. Not only will Bob's successor have to be elected then, but the meeting in May will be an opportunity to thank him for all the work he has done for the Guild in this capacity.


All change at Woodbury this year

Guild members have warmly welcomed the proposal for a new style Guild event to replace the old AGM Day. Unfortunately it was not possible to move the date of the meeting for this year (see 'Rule changes' on page 4) but the day's events will not simply be open ringing, followed by a service, tea and a long business meeting. The small committee formed by the Guild last year has met with the secretary of the Aylesbeare branch and plans are taking shape. Striking expert John Harrison from Beaconsfield has agreed to come and lead a seminar on listening skills in ringing, and other 'workshops' are in the pipeline - ringing methods on handbells, how to advance in Surprise Major, tower and belfry maintenance, ringing Bob Doubles, computers in ringing, plus much more.

Such an innovative format will mean plenty of helpers will be needed, and all will need to book in in advance indicating choices of activity. Full details will be sent out in due course. The annual business meeting would take place after registration and before Lunch, and the afternoon's workshops would end with the Guild service. The Guild Committee has asked that this year, the Guild six bell striking competition take place in the evening.


Taw, Torridge and Tamar Midweek Group.

Group meetings recommenced on Wednesday 11 February at Bideford and Little Torrington with a good turnout of ringers including Ann Williams from Wolverhampton who came all the way to complete her North Devon eights. The March meeting will be held at Bridgerule and Whitstone, with the April meeting also in the Tamar area at Kilkhampton and Bradworthy. The date for both March and April will revert to the second Thursday of the month. All Guild members and any other ringers in the area are more than welcome to join us. For further information please contact Don Lawson.


Eight bell competition

Spliced Oxford Bob and Grandsire is the order of the day for the Guild inter-branch eight bell striking competition due to be held in the East Devon branch on Saturday 17 October. Branch officers are busy organising a tower, and Triples afficionado James Clarke has arranged a suitable touch of 252 changes. Once more branches are being challenged to ring something simple but a little out of the ordinary. The touch is:

	G - O - GG - OO -	235647
		three times


The past year was a very eventful one for the ringers at Galmpton. Suddenly, and apparently against all odds, it all began to come together and those many hours of patient effort on the part of their good friends throughout the Branch began to bear fruit. There were more quarters rung, more personal firsts and more general improvement than at any time within living memory.

One thing worries the Galmpton ringers, however. They did ring rather a lot over the Christmas period and on the following Sunday the tower sustained a direct lightning strike which effectively stopped all ringing for about a month.

'Perhaps someone up there did not agree with our assessment of our abilities or perhaps he just felt He had heard enough of us for the time being' said local ringer Mike Tann. Mike promises, 'We shall be back and our striking will improve!'


Restoring the bells of St Mary's, Charleton

The 1986 bell installation of Harry Stokes of Woodbury rang for the last time for the church service on 1st June 1997, 101 years in a belfry with little maintenance above a bit of grease. They just made it to their century. When the tenor was removed, one of the three dogs carrying its weight was so thin it was snapped by hand. One of the reports that persuaded the local ringers that matters were urgent stated that the bells would soon be unringable.

In August 1996 the Charleton ringers applied to the Millennium Commission for a 50% grant towards the 20,000 pounds required. They thought raising their half would be very difficult but that it was a chance they had to take. In fact it took less than three months. They went round the village, door to door, asking for a 10 or 20 pound Deed of Covenant and received tremendous support. They said the bells would soon be unringable and then tried to build a bit of support before begging! Over half the population gave their support. A typical half hour chat raised, with tax recovery, 52 or 105 pounds. That's a lot of cream teas!

Having no experience to call on, the locals asked Preb John Scott for his advice and guidance. It was clear he had confidence in the workmanship of Nicholson Engineering and they wanted to use a 'local' firm, providing quality was assured, they contacted Andrew Nicholson. 'We liked the idea that he rang the tenor at Exeter Cathedral,' said captain Ian Nicholas, 'He was one of us.'

It was a good choice. Andrew was helpful in completing the formidable application document required by the Millennium Commission the key to the 50% grant. St Mary's now has a brand new installation. The bells were removed at the beginning of June and reinstalled in the third week of September. The oak frame is in good condition and has been retained. The bells themselves have new clappers and headstocks. The cannons have been removed from the first five bells but retained on the tenor, a 1706 listed bell. All the bells have been retuned and sound much better, with more resonance.

They say a good workman does not blame his tools. Well the Charleton band do not claim to be good bellringers but an old gentleman at the church who rang here in the early eighties when competitions were won and who kept his opinion of recent ringing to himself with great difficulty has actually said they sound better. Preb John Scott has declared the job well done. The Millennium Commission has paid up and the village now wants to hear value for money.


Exeter: St Mark's dinner

Thirty ringers and friends met at Harry's restaurant in Exeter in January for what might be the last St Mark's dinner. Tower captain Richard Shere in what he described as not much of a speech (did anyone disagree with him?) reported that nine quarters and seven peals had been rung at the tower during the previous year. He profusely thanked those who had kept Sunday service ringing going, and was pleased to note that the five learners were making good progress.


A reminder that subs are now #4 and the peal fee is 40p per ringer.


A printout of tower contacts in the county is always available for three pounds from Frank Bye in North Tawton - As a result, there are no plans for the Guild and Association to publish another edition of the Devon Ringers Handbook.


Plymouth: augmentation plans taking shape

The ringers of St Andrew's, Plymouth, amidst fits and starts of high media profile - you would have seen them on Westcountry Live if you had sat through the Ploughing Competition story! - have been steadily progressing closer to the 40,000 pound fundraising target.

If you didn't see Westcountry, you may not be aware that the St Andrew's ringers are aiming towards a major overhaul of the bells, including retuning and rehanging in a modified frame capable of housing an augmentation to twelve bells by the end of 1999. They have applied to the Millennium Commission for matched funding and are raising their half of the money slowly but surely.

St Andrew's has a large proportion of ringers under sixteen, and they, wanting to do their part, walked about ten miles and raised about 300 pounds through sponsorship. The band has bought a restoration book where everyone who donates 10 pounds or more will have their name recorded in the annals of history. They are also offering the opportunity to sponsor part of a bell, of, for any feeling particularly flush, to buy a complete new bell with the inscription on the bell recording your generosity; at only 9000 pounds it's a bargain! There are a number of other fundraising projects underway, all of which the local band would love to see you at.

There will be regular updates in the Evening Herald or you can contact Fergus Stracey or Heather Chapman, or e-mail to


Three minor rule changes will be proposed at the Guild business meeting in May. The first will allow for the meeting to take place in June, as the Saturday of the May Day bank holiday week-end has been proving difficult for many people recently. The other two rules are necessary because of changes in the law relating to small charities, and the need to appoint an Examiner of Accounts rather than an Auditor. Full details will be circulated to all members with the Guild report in accordance with Rule 8.2 of the Guild.


Australia celebrations planned

The Devon Guild has been invited to consider entering a team in an international striking competition to be held in Australia in 2001. This is the centenary year of the federation of the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.

The finals will have only one band representing each country, so there will be, if necessary, eliminating heats to determine which team will wave the English flag. If anyone is interested in organising a band willing and able to have a holiday in the antipodes in the spring of 2001 (it will be autumn there), please contact the Guild secretary who has full details.


North Devon News

The St Brannock's Society's Millennium Fund is growing slowly, although no decision has yet been made how to use the money being collected. The next planned fundraising event is a walking treasure hunt next June being organised by James and Joan Clarke. To their credit, the Society recently rang a quarter peal on Spliced Surprise Major for Evensong at Braunton, for which they should be heartily congratulated. Although covering a large area, the Society has few resident members, and five-spliced is not easy! Special congratulations to Duncan Weaver for conducting the quarter.

Braunton. 8 February 1998. 1344 Spliced S Major (5m: Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Superlative, Yorkshire). John Ross 1; Joan Clarke 2; Donald Lawson 3; Heather Weaver 4; James Clarke 5; Terry Hampton 6; Duncan Weaver (C) 7; Michael Rose 8.


Guild Committee: January report

The most exciting education project the Guild has ever undertaken.' With these words, Guild Master Martin Mansley at the Guild Committee meeting in January, described the plans for the Guild Annual Meeting day in May (full details elsewhere in RRD). This will be centred in the White Hart in Woodbury. After some discussion, it was decided to hold the six bell competition on the same day as the meeting, but to try to find an alternative date next year - possibly on the same day as the 8-bell.

Members noted the deaths of Edith Coulman, a vice-president of the Guild, aged 105, and Tony Morris of Dawlish who had been secretary of the Mid Devon Branch. Other business included increasing the travelling expenses of the Central Council representatives for this year, as the CC meeting is in Ireland. The welcome pack is to be launched at the annual meeting day; this has been developed by the North East branch in consultation with Guild president Bob Southwood, and immediate past master Lester Yeo. It is intended that a copy will be available for reference in every tower, and given to every new ringing member on their election. As it contains much useful information about the purpose and running of the Guild, existing members might like a copy, and a donation is suggestion to meet costs. Each branch is asked to develop their own material for use in their own area.

A record number of grants were made by the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund, helped by the support of Parochial Church Councils in affiliating to the fund. 4650 pounds has been given or promised to towers for bell restoration work in the county. Millennium money has been allocated to Colyton (an augmentation), Gidleigh (rehanging of a long-unringable five) and Charleton (see article in RRD).


Edinburgh: bells appeal

The Guild has received an appeal from the ringers of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh for help in its millennial augmentation appeal. The total cost of this project, which will create an ideal ringing centre for Scotland, is 170,000 pounds.

The Guild committee has decided that with so many local augmentations and rehangings in hand, and with the DCBRF being the sole recipient of the money received by the Guild for bell restoration, it would a dangerous precedent to give money to a 'foreign' tower. However many ringers may have a connection with Scotland and wish to give directly to the Bell Appeal Secretary, St Mary's Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh EH12 5AW. Wendy Campbell has the breathtaking appeal brochure.


Emmanuel: ringers stunned

Emmanuel, Plymouth, finds itself in the path of gales again! This time the trap door on to the flat roof and the sound insulation material were deposited elsewhere. While the ringers await news of the costs of repair and replacement, they are somewhat stunned. Despite great efforts on their part to entice new ringers into the band, the locals at Emmanuel were unfortunately unable to recruit any. 'On the other hand,' says Jill Larbalestier, 'the vast national publicity that ringing in the millennium has received has brought both accomplished and willing volunteers to our tower door!'


Benjamin H Thompson 1909 - 1997

by Wendy Campbell

With the passing of Ben Thompson on 5th February, the last of the older generation who were ringing at Heavitree when Ian and I moved here in 1974 has gone. These stalwart 'old boys' included Fred Wreford, Charlie Yates and Roy Rundle and all were known for their reliability and high standards in the belfry.

Ben was a Wiltshireman by birth, but moved to Exeter in the 1950s and eventually became County Architect. He was a man of many talents and interests, woodcarving and painting being but two of these, and it is a source of deep satisfaction to me that he gave us a painting of Woodbury Common and another of a Dartmoor scene. When offered payment for these, he expressed delight that anyone should like his work well enough to hang it on their wall, but that we might care to give a donation instead to the Leprosy Mission, his pet charity. Another cause close to his heart was the rescue of elderly spaniel dogs, and he was often to be seen on the playing fields in Pinhoe walking a rescued dog which was fortunate enough to be seeing out its final days with Ben and his wife.

His peal and quarter peal totals are not known, but he certainly rang two peals at Heavitree, both in 1959. The tower steps became too much for him about ten years ago and he retired from the band. As he was already an ardent churchman at Pinhoe, we hoped that he might join the band there, the belfry being on the ground floor, but he could only occasionally be persuaded to take hold of a rope.

Ben was the archetypal 'perfect gentleman', the model of courtesy at all times, but he was also full of humour and a man to converse with. A particular irritation to him was loss of memory as he grew older and he would report ruefully that he tried to keep his mind nimble by adding up long columns of numbers in his head. One Sunday morning he arrived at Heavitree, proudly sporting a Concorde tie; he had just taken a day trip to Cairo and enjoyed himself enormously, but he was extremely vexed to have left a brand new panama hat at the Pyramids!

At his funeral on 13th February, readings and tributes were made by his two sons, while two grandchildren sang and played the violin and the cello - a beautiful family tribute. As the cortege left the church, the bells were rung open in thanksgiving for his life and a quarter peal of 1260 Grandsire Triples was successfully concluded:

1. Wendy Campbell
2. Frank Mack
3. Robert Franklin
4. Tony Osborne
5. Bill Ford
6. George Retter
7. Ian Campbell (cond)
8. Colin Vincent


Have you ever watched 'The Krypton Factor' from the comfort of your armchair and thought you could make a better job of the assault course in the final round than any of the contestants? Well, now you have the chance to put yourself to the test.

Jonathan Lear, tower captain at Woodbury, is 'Something Big' at the Lympstone Marine Training Camp and has come up with a novel way of raising funds for the DCBRF. Would-be volunteers for the assault course are invited to apply for a form and get themselves as much sponsorship as possible before tackling the course one Saturday either in June or July. The date is yet to be fixed and the event depends on sufficient interest being shown. Please indicate your willingness to participate, either to Wendy Campbell directly or else to your local branch secretary. The only stipulation is that you should be at least 14 years old and have no obvious health problems.

If the Guild could get fifty people to take part, and each of those could find sponsorship of 25 pounds, a useful sum would be raised for bell restoration. Already more money has been promised in grants to projects within the county than is in the kitty, to the tune of 1,000 pounds, so one really successful fund raising event would be very helpful indeed. Let's have those names rolling in soon!


Congratulations to Sue Sturdy, D Langabeer, Rebecca Hearn and Sarah White who have recently rung their first quarter peals.

Clyst St George, Devon. 21 November 1997. 1260 Grandsire Doubles: Sue Sturdy (1st Q.) 1, G Bray 2, C Temperton 3, J Langabeer 4, A Williams (C) 5, D Langabeer (1st Q.) 6.

Sampford Courtney, Devon. 6 December 1997, 1260 Grandsire Doubles: Rebecca Hearn (1st Q.) 1, Rogenia Bond 2, Jane Doidge 3, Anthony Parry (C) 4, Peter Bazeley 5, Jim East 6.

Whitchurch, Devon. 31 December 1997, 1260 Grandsire Doubles: Sarah White (1st Q.) 1, Jane Doidge 2, Judith Turner (1st in m.) 3, Terry Keane 4, Peter Bazeley (C) 5, Michael Turner 6.


From The Bell News of 19 August 1899

Torquay and other parts of Devonshire has been visited during the past week by some heavy thunderstorms. In conformity with an old custom the bells of Dawlish Church were rung during the storm in the belief that 'the spirit of the bells would overcome the spirit of the lightning'. 'Lightning and thunder I break asunder' was a monkish couplet, which, in the 17th century, was engraved on many church bells.


Ring in 2000

The Open Churches Trust has proposed that on 1 January 2000 all church bells in the country should be rung to celebrate the Millennium. The Central Council has endorsed this proposal, although acknowledging it this might not be possible for all rings to be rung at the same time.

The joint Guild and Association working party called a meeting for the members of the Association committee and representatives of the Guild's branches to plan a workable strategy to meet this challenge. Twenty-odd ringers from throughout the county therefore gathered at St Petrock's on 21 February. Guild Master Martin Mansley took the chair and proposed on behalf of the working party that a local contact be appointed for each deanery in the Diocese to co-ordinate the arrangements for ringing on the day, and also to plan for the recruitment and training which will be needed if this is to happen. A full list of local contacts will be available in due course.

Suggestions made included: That in each deanery there should be a gathering of all tower captains to plan a local strategy, and to discover the true situation of silent towers. That active towers should act as local centres for training, so that towers which are struggling could benefit from their expertise. That experienced ringers should offer concerted teaching practices at towers without a band. That ringers should make use of the Central Council offer to provide help in training those who will teach learners. That a video be made for recruitment within Devon giving a flavour of ringing within the county. That the support and knowledge of local clergy and Deanery Synod members for this project be sought. That towers should especially aim at bringing lapsed ringers back into the tower. A further meeting is planned for April 19th.


Anthony J Morris

Tony was born in South Wales in 1935 and came to Dawlish in about 1968. He learnt to ring in 1977 ringing his first quarter peal on the tenor in April 1978 and his last at Thorverton in March 1997. Tony was not one of those ringers who set out to ring as many peals or quarters as possible but one of those faithful and regular members of the local band who could be relied upon to turn out Sunday by Sunday and on practice nights. He did, however, ring a total of about 310 quarter peals and two peals both of which were in his home tower.

He spend most evenings of the week assisting with practices at other towers. He will be sadly missed not only at Dawlish but in the Mid Devon Branch where he was secretary for a number of years.

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Pages written by Ian Campbell

Updated 22/3/98