The History of our Bells
The bells have rung out from the tower of St.Mary & St.Nicholas for at least 400 years since the tower was built in 1480.
There have almost certainly been bells in the church since it was built nearly one thousand years ago, although at first probably only one or perhaps two.
In those days church bells were rung much more frequently than today. They were used to mark times of the day, to summon parishioners to worship, to mark festivals, baptisms, marriages and funerals.
The bells in action
Until the Reformation (1534) the Passing Bell was always rung before a funeral to ward off evil spirits; usually there were nine teller strokes (the nine tailors) for a man, six for a woman and three for a child.
The number of chimes on a different bell, if there was one, indicated the age of the deceased (as was done at The Queen Mother's funeral in 2002). Bells were tolled to warn of disasters like fire and flood but also on happier occasions such as welcoming distinguished visitors to the town, marking Royal events and celebrating military or naval victories. "Our bells are worn threadbare with the ringing of victories," wrote Horace Walpole after a succession of British military triumphs in the eighteenth century.
In 1549 our church tower had four bells, which may well have been there since the tower was built about 70 years before. After the Reformation bells were removed from many churches, including three of Leatherhead's four. Nothing much is known about our bells between 1549 and 1742 except that they were rung to celebrate the restoration of Charles II in 1660 and that the one bell left in 1549 was among the six in the tower in 1792.
In the 1720s there was a ring of six bells.
Keeping bell ringing going in the eighteenth century was an expensive business because not only had the bells to be maintained but also the ringers had to be paid and supplied with drink, customarily beer or cider. Bell ringing is a thirsty beer cost 1d (a fraction of 1p) a pint. That would have worked out at about two or three pints a week for each ringer. A barrel would probably have been kept in the vestry and the beer for each session carried up to the tower in a two-gallon earthenware jug.
When the bells removed at the Reformation were replaced instead of the old spindle and rope, new ways of hanging them were tried. The rope and wheel technique was developed, enabling the bells to rotate in a complete circle. Thus, apart from oil for the bearings, maintenance required the replacement of a greater number of moving parts.
In 1770 the whole bell frame was renewed. It was ordered "Mr George Steer do forthwith make a new frame of good seasoned heart of oak in a workmanlike manner ... for the new hanging of the bells ... and repair the stocks and wheels". He must have done a workmanlike job because the bells were not re-hung again until 1924, 154 years later.
Soon after the 1770 re-hanging it was recorded that "the stone steps leading from the belfry to the bells in the steeple are by time and use become dangerous, agreed that the treads to the said steps be covered with oak planks." One Benjamin Simmons was given the job and his name and the date (1787) the work was completed are carved on the top riser. This man has an important place in the history of Leatherhead's bells and ringers.
Bell ringing flourished in the later 18th Century and in April 1792 the Vestry Meeting ordered that the six bells be recast into eight, with additional metal as required.
[Information provided by Alun Roberts (Leatherhead & District Local History Society) and Peter Ford (Leatherhead Bell Ringers).]
The recast bells cost £200, which was raised by public subscription. One of the many tablets on the wall of the ringing chamber records that 'on the 30th July 1792 was rung in this steeple four true and complete Peals of Treble Bob .. the last ever rung on the old six bells'.
Another tablet records that on 21st August 1792 the Peal of eight was opened - a singular feat in only three weeks.
Perhaps they repented for their haste, for by 1816 several bells had to be recast, and the remaining 1792 bells were recast when the ring was augmented to the present ten in 1877.
The Treble weighs 6 cwt (305kg) and the big Tenor bell weighs 19 cwt (966kg).
Leatherhead Church Bells: from the June 2002 Parish magazine
Benjamin Simmons, born in 1751, came to Leatherhead in the 1770s. He worked for Abraham Elliott whose timber yard (which he later bought) was across the road from the Parish Church. His first recorded local bell ringing appearance was at St Martin's, Epsom, in 1776, where he called the maiden peal on their eight new bells.
When he arrived Leatherhead only had six bells, but in April 1792, doubtless due to his influence, the Vestry "Agreed that the old six bells be taken down and re-cast into a peal of eight with the metal as is wanting to make the compleat peal, and that the same be left to the Churchwardens James Clear and James Harrison and William Baker and Benjamin Simmons".
A board in the belfry says "Be it remembered that Will Baker set on foot a subscription to improve the bells, raising £200 (about £12,000 in today's money)... " Will Baker must have been persuasive because he also raised money for a new fire engine. Unusually the job was done quickly allowing the eight new bells to be dedicated on August 21st. A CollegeYouths team, probably theancient Society of College Youths, founded in 1637, who ring at St Paul's Cathedral, rang one of the first, if not the first, peal on the new bells. Edward Simmons, Benjamin's brother, was in the tearn of ringers. An all Leatherhead team rang their first peal (5,000 changes without a mistake) in 1795. The longest peal ever recorded here was of 10,080 changes in 1808 and was conducted by Benjamin Simmons in six hours and four minutes.
By 1816 some of the bells had to be re-cast - that they required repair so soon throws doubt on the quality of the 1792 work! Perhaps by design, the new peal was celebrated on August 21st by the Leatherhead team including Benjamin Simmons for the last time. Without him bell ringing in Leatherhead did not reach the same high standard again for 50 years. Two of his great grand-daughters still lived in the town in 1958. Joseph Lisney (1821-1910) used to tell, it is said, of ringing all day for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. The fingers were refreshed with an 18-gallon cask of ale in the belfry. It must have been a jolly day - 18 pints each for eight ringers.
In 1877 the remaining 1792 bells were found to be cracked and were re-cast. In memory of his first wife Mr A J Miller of Emlyn House gave two new bells at the same time. The first ten-bell peal was rung on 23rd July 1879. Until 1891 the bells were rung from a gallery in the tower open to the nave and lit by the west window. When this gallery was removed the bell ringers moved to the room above from where they still ring.
After 137 years of use the bell frame and fittings had to be replaced and the ninth bell re-cast. On Easter Sunday 1924 the rehung bells were rung for the first time, and except for one re-tuning in 1964 there have no further changes. Of the 10 bells in the tower now, one dates from 1924, five from 1877 and four from 1816, when Benjamin Simmons last rang.
Information kindly supplied by Mr Peter Ford (Leatherhead Bell Ringers) and Mr Alun Roberts (Leatherhead & District Historical Society)
17 Apr 09: Alan Smith, former Captain of Ringers: More work was done in 1964 than implied above, but no tuning was done then. In late 1963 the 6th headstock broke and subsequent examination found the 5th headstock also cracked. So seven of the bells were rehung on new headstocks in 1964, only nos. 4, 7 & 9 were left as they had had new headstocks previously. I believe the canons were also removed from those seven bells at the same time. This information has been confirmed from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry records.
NOTES/NEWS FROM THE BELFRY
Ringing World Bell BoardRinging Remembers - November 11th - from the December 2018 magazine
On Sunday, November 11th for the first time in many years the baffles in the bell chamber that are normally closed to limit the sound of Leatherhead's bells were opened on all four sides of the tower so that the ringing of the bells would carry far and wide and accompany people walking to the War Memorial on this special Armistice Centenary Remembrance Sunday.
Between 9.45 and 10.30 am precisely the bells were rung half-muffled to produce the alternating loud and soft, echoing tones that reflect the melancholy, serious nature of the occasion. This is a very special style of ringing that makes extra demands on the ringers' skills and involves pieces that can usually be heard only once a year, on Remembrance Sunday. Yet the hardest challenge came at 10.50 am precisely, when three teams of ringers lined up in turn to ring "Whole Pull and Stand''.
This is something that even the most experienced ringers find difficult to execute properly and in practice sessions we had rarely managed it to our satisfaction, so there was some anxiety. Yet on the day itself there was no hesitation: every team member was determined; every team excelled. The ringing culminated in Rex, our Vice Captain, tolling the huge tenor bell, stopping at 11 am exactly for the two minute silence which we observed in the belfry along with the rest of the nation.
At 12.30 pm exactly some of you may have heard the bells again, this time with the muffles removed, as our team of Grandsire Triples ringers joined churches and cathedrals throughout the land Ringing for Peace: Armistice 100.
Two of the people ringing this Remembrance Sunday were doing so for the first time. When the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and the UK Government ambitiously called for recruits to symbolically represent the 1,400 bell ringers who died during WWI, they scarcely anticipated that 2,792 people would step forward nationwide.
Among them were Stefan, who joined us last November, and Alastair who recently commented, "Hard to believe that I had never rung a church bell on the 10th of September and nearly two months later I have managed to start ringing bells in rounds."
Known as our Ringing Remembers
recruits, both played a full part in the ringing on the morning and again
during the evening of November 11th, each proudly wearing the badges they
were awarded for their endeavours.
For all of us, that evening was a very moving experience as we joined towers around the world simultaneously ringing to mark the international Battle's Over commemorations. At 6.55 pm exactly, having mounted to the top of the church tower, our bugler, Cliff Lennon, played the Last Post, followed by the Rouse, intently listened to by the bell ringers in the ringing chamber below before we again commenced ringing at 7.05 pm precisely.
Several people have kindly commented that the ringing formed a touching backdrop to the service and their day and that they appreciated and enjoyed listening to the bells.
We hope that maybe you did too.
Meanwhile practice continues, this time in preparation for the Christmas season. We wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmastide.
Ringing Remembers - from the November 2018 magazine
When the armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918, ringers young and old across this nation ran to their churches to ring out a spontaneous message of relief and joy at the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. For many people, the sound of those bells was the first indication that the War had ended.
By that day in 1918, fourteen hundred bell ringers had died in the War.
This year, to mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of the Great War, the government, together with the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, initiated a campaign called Ringing Remembers, a nationwide project to honour the 1,400 bell ringers lost during the War. Part of the initiative was to recruit and train 1400 bell ringers in time for this year's Armistice Day, symbolically representing the ringers who had been lost in the War. At Leatherhead Parish Church we have been very busy carefully training our own two recruits: Stefan and Alastair. Both will be taking their place in the belfry alongside their fellow ringers on November 11th.
Ringing bells on Remembrance Sunday has always been a special and very different occasion from normal service ringing, this year all the more so. If you pass near the church on that day you will hear ringing commence at 9.45 am with our bells half-muffled. This means that all 10 bells will sound once loudly and then you will hear a second, softer sound like an echo. The result is haunting, sad and extraordinarily beautiful and affecting. There is a special skill attached to ringing bells half-muffled and we shall be ringing music designed to bring out the best of the sound.
At 10.30 am there will be a pause as the service commences. Then at 10.50 am we will begin the most challenging but also, we believe, the most beautiful ringing of the day, stopping at 11 am exactly to join the entire nation in silence.
In addition, however, this year more than 3,000 churches in the UK and still more churches all around the world have been asked to remove the muffles from our bells at midday and then to commence ringing in unison at 12.30 pm exactly.
[image to be added]
Stefan (R) practising with fellow ringer, John
The idea is to replicate the 16 events of 1918 and to celebrate the centenary of the day on which the guns fell silent. Every church in this nation and beyond has been asked to ring a piece of its choosing. At Leatherhead we shall be attempting a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples.
That is not, however, the end of the day's events. Many months ago, Leatherhead ringers responded to an appeal for churches to Ring out for Peace as part of Battle's Over, a nationwide tribute to the millions killed or wounded in battle and those on the home front who struggled amidst pain and loss to help ensure freedom survived. Among other commemorative events taking place on November 11th, at 6.55 pm buglers will sound the Last Post, and at 7 pm more than 1,000 Beacons of Light will be lit, symbolising an end to the darkness of war and a return to the light of peace, while at 7.05 pm precisely, bell ringers at 1,000 cathedrals and churches will ring out their bells across the nation and beyond in celebration of peace. Leatherhead's bell ringers will be among them. [And Leatherhead RBL's bugler.]
For more information about Ringing Remembers, visit: https://www.big-ideas.org/project/ringing-remembers/
For more information about Battle's Over and a full list of the day's events which start at 6 am, view https://www.brunopeek.co.uk where you can also click on "Your Guide to Taking Part" for more details of participants, locations and times.
Here, there and everywhere - from the October 2018 magazine
For most people the past couple of months have been a time for holidays. They were for Leatherhead's ringers, who took it in turns to head for France, Spain, Norway, Scotland and other more or less exotic destinations. Yes, Leatherhead ringers are certainly well travelled.
Nonetheless, we still managed to have a good band of ringers for Sunday morning services and also to participate in a demanding programme of quarter peal attempts and competition ringing, albeit with somewhat mixed success.
Our attempt to ring a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at the beginning of August was sadly fated when the rope of one of the bells slipped off its wheel, forcing us to stop about half way through the quarter peal, just as it was going well. We were all disappointed, especially for young Jemima who was not only attempting her first quarter peal on eight bells but bravely ringing one of the trickier inside bells. Further disappointment came three weeks later when a beautifully struck quarter peal conducted by thirteen-year-old Sasha crashed to a sudden and irretrievable halt within two minutes of the end. Yet this is the nature of bell ringing and a reminder that achieving a quarter peal is no easy task.
So we were disappointed, yes, but we do not give up and were therefore delighted when our team of Mike, Natalie, Peter, Rex, Sasha, and Stuart put an end to our run of bad luck with an excellent quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles on September 2nd. That quarter peal was rung to celebrate the birthday of Natalie's father but was also dedicated to Sasha, who was about to set off for his first term at his new school.
However, we couldn't let him go without requiring his services on Leatherhead's behalf once more and he joined Jemima, Natalie, Rex, Peter, and Mike for the District-wide six-bell striking competition wherein Leatherhead came second with a very creditable score, just pipped to the cup by a team from Dorking.
[add image of Rex, Sasha, Mike, members of the competition band]
So, those events are now in the past. However, you might like to listen out for two further special occasions that are coming up soon. The first will be a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on Sunday, September 30th at 5.30 p.m., giving Helen her first chance to attempt a quarter peal on eight bells.
The other will be on October 6th when ringers throughout the District will be attempting to ring no fewer than twelve quarter peals in one day at a range of churches from Cobham and Capel to Stoke D'Abernon, Ashtead, Epsom and elsewhere. If you pass by the church, you might hear two of the quarter peals being rung at Leatherhead during the afternoon. The day kicks off at 9.15 am. with an ali-Leatherhead band ringing at Ockley. In total, however, Leatherhead ringers are involved in seven of the twelve quarter peals, so we'll all be dashing from one church to another. That's OK, though - we're used to travelling.
Please wish us and our fellow District ringers luck - the day will be a huge team effort.
Belfry Biography - from the September 2018 magazine
In many ways bell ringing is like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it and most aspiring ringers discover this very quickly during their introductory course. What starts as a bright smile is transformed into a judder as the rope flashes past their eyes; some suddenly develop impeccable manners when it's their turn to ring, "Oh, er, I think this lady was before me ..." Yes, for some people there is no doubt - bells are more loveable when you can stand outside the church and listen to others ringing them. And that's fine.
The Marmite lovers, on the other hand, reveal their taste in many little ways: the learner overheard confessing that her heart gives a little lurch whenever she's called to take a rope, yet as soon as her turn is over she just can't wait to have another go; another lady so determined to get her handling technique right that she found herself practising her arm movements as she walked along the street, to the puzzlement of those she passed. For Stefan recently a seemingly innocuous incident at home resulted in two crossed ribs. His first question to the medics at A&E after the ribs had been realigned? "So, can I go bell ringing this evening?" Definitely a Marmite fan.
At Leatherhead we have all sorts of Marmite ringers. Take Sasha and Jemima, for instance, who at 13 and 15 years of age are among the youngest ever quarter peal conductors in the District and who are preparing to conduct their second quarter peals during the evenings of August 26th and December 2nd. You might like to listen out for them.
Yet there are also those who never make the headlines: ringers such as Peter Moyle. They form the backbone of every belfry ringing team lucky enough to have such a member. Peter has been ringing the bells at Leatherhead for decades and from the outset it was clear that he was going to be a Marmite ringer, progressing slowly but steadily through the skill set and still keen to acquire new skills to this day. If you want someone to take a bell for rounds, call changes, plain hunting and a variety of methods, Peter's your man: he has the ability to ring any of the bells in our belfry, including the massive tenor bell. Arriving promptly and reliably for Sunday service ringing, year after year Peter has ensured we achieve our goal of ringing all ten Leatherhead bells. Although he is an unassuming man, Peter has encyclopaedic knowledge of a huge range of topics, so sitting next to him between ringing sessions during practice nights is always an educational and entertaining experience.
Peter is patient and determined and this is reflected in his ringing achievements. His most famous motto has to be: "I know where I went wrong!" and he sets about improving. In April last year he rang his first quarter peal of Plain Bob on a tricky inside bell. Yet he felt he could achieve more and so he set about learning the intricacies of ringing a more complicated quarter peal, which he rang triumphantly at last on November 5th in celebration of the birthday of his son, Julian.
[image to be added]
To our great consternation, some months ago Peter had an accident and broke the bones in two fingers of his left hand. The damage was severe and Peter was advised that it would be a long time before he could use the hand for heavy tasks, from vacuuming the house to mowing the lawn. There was even some doubt as to whether he would ever be able to ring bells again. Everyone was worried and we all missed him in the belfry. Yet once again Peter's determination shone through and the date of August 14th was set for his return. Welcome back, Peter!
Special advance notice. On Monday afternoon, September 10th, you might like to listen out for a full peal being rung at Leatherhead Parish Church. Not only is peal ringing a rarity (only eight have been rung at Leatherhead this century) but this particular peal promises to be of exceptional quality, involving some of the country's top ringers attempting a piece of the most challenging bell ringing music it's possible to ring. We hope you will hear it and enjoy it.
Trains and Boats and Charabancs - from the August 2018 magazine
There is a long-held tradition among Leatherhead bell ringers that each year we set out on an outing, devoting an entire day to visiting cathedrals and churches, some previously unheard of to many of us, and ringing their bells. Some people call it "tower grabbing". At Leatherhead we call it good fun.
In this day and age of relatively easy transportation, we like to imagine that we are very adventurous. However, looking back at the trips made by previous generations, all carefully recorded in neat script in a precious book we keep in the ringing chamber, it's astonishing to discover how far afield our ringers wandered on foot, cycling, and by train.
[image to be added]
Among the many photographs of ringers past and present that line our ringing chamber walls, one of my favourites shows our Leatherhead ringers gathered happily in and around a charabanc, grinning at the photographer. While our photograph is not dated, the vehicle registration plate, PH3296, indicates that the vehicle was registered in Guildford at some time between 1904 and 1935. In times when holidays were few and far between, it must have been a very special occasion for them all.
When I first arrived in Leatherhead, we would set out each year by coach, together with numerous non-ringing members of the congregation, leaving Leatherhead Church promptly at 8 a.m. and returning equally promptly at 8 p.m. Our destinations included Hampshire, Wiltshire, Chelmsford, Cambridge and many more.
The first outing I organised was also a coach outing and we headed for Constable country, marvelling at the coach driver's skills as he negotiated the narrow Suffolk country lanes. It was then that we introduced a little additional "adventure" to the day, on that occasion enjoying a private tour of Flatford Mill, Valley Farm, and Willy Lott's House. Since then, among other activities, we have savoured cream teas on the Chichester Canal, sampled wine at Lamberhurst Vineyard, travelled the Watercress Line, shoe-horned ourselves somehow into the miniature carriages of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, and all but drowned ourselves as we rowed in the rain along the River Ouse.
This year's outing was organised by Julian. Nowadays, with the price of hiring a coach and driver prohibitive, we travel together in cars. We were therefore initially concerned that our planned outing to the Isle of Purbeck might be a little too ambitious, even by our Leatherhead standards. Yet no, far from it: many of us decided to make a holiday of the occasion. Tents were retrieved from attics, camp sites booked and some of us reserved hotel rooms near our destination. An intrepid few drove there and back on the day!
During the morning we rang at Lady St Mary, Wareham; St James, Kingston; and St Mary the Virgin, Swanage. The highlight, however, came after lunch in Studland when we boarded the chain ferry and crossed to Sandbanks before taking the boat ride across to Brownsea Island. There, our non-ringing members had a whale of a time: 12-year old Peter swam in the sea with dad, Michael; little 3-year old Ned sat (briefly) in a bird hide before tumbling unharmed to the ground and scrambling back up excitedly; and several people went off in search of the elusive red squirrels. Meanwhile, we ringers coped admirably with the challenge of ringing the tiniest bells imaginable in the ringing chamber at
St. Mary's. Weighing just 4 cwt, the tenor at this eight-bell church is lighter than the smallest of Leatherhead's ten bells. I called them teacups, Lizzie called them brilliant. We all called the outing a tremendous success! Thank you Julian.
[add image] On board the chain ferry.
Expert Advice - from the July 2018 magazine
Just recently, we Leatherhead bell ringers commenced a new training module, grandly entitled the "Stedman" module, named after Fabian Stedman, the seventeenth century author of the first two books about the English style of bell ringing. In one of those books, Stedman introduced a piece of bell ringing music, known as a principle, that has been called after him ever since and that is very popular among ringers to this day because it is so musical. Old it may be, easy it is not. Consequently, we ringers have been busily acquiring a whole new range of vocabulary and practising our double dodging, whole and half turns, Erin and Stedman front work, quick sixes, slow sixes and more - all gobbledygook to the uninitiated, of course, and very demanding for us ringers, too.
Because Stedman ringing is so challenging, during our practice sessions each novice is placed with a full team of highly experienced ringers in order to give them the best possible chance of ringing with precision and enjoying the satisfaction of getting it right. As a result, it struck me that on Tuesday practice nights our experienced ringers, affectionately known to us all as The Experts, have been cheerfully and uncomplainingly ringing exercise after exercise for hours on end yet still emerge smiling and ready with encouraging comments and tips. Why? For nothing more than the satisfaction they get from passing on this uniquely English skill to a new generation.
Apart from myself, The Experts at Leatherhead comprise Peter, Rex, Mike, John, Roger and more recently Richard. These men have been dedicated and committed supporters of the Leatherhead modular teaching approach which started three years ago and have never once let us down. The Experts not only turn up for practice nights but also for a multitude of other events including quarter peals, listening skills lessons and individual training and bell handling sessions when a new person wants to join the group. This is particularly remarkable given that Roger, John, and Richard are actually regular ringers belonging to other churches in the District where other ringers likewise rely on their generosity with their time and expertise.
This team with their dedication and determination have made our Leatherhead band possible. They are the reason why Stefan will take his place in the ringing chamber on 11th November to Ring for Peace, Armistice 100, why 81-year-old Margaret is fast learning to ring Grandsire Doubles on an inside bell, why Jemima and Sasha have already become two of the District's youngest ever quarter peal conductors, why Jemima is a member of the Guildford Diocesan Guild Young Ringers team competing in the national change ringing competition, why we can attempt quarter peals twice a month before Sunday evening services and invariably ring ten bells prior to morning services, and why last month we had a team of 14 ringers to celebrate the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Thank you, Experts.
[Image to be added]
The band that rang for the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Good Things Come in Threes - from the June 2018 magazine
Special occasions in the world of bell ringing are, it seems, just like buses: you feel as though you wait for decades for one to come along and suddenly three turn up together. Last year, for example, we celebrated the eightieth birthdays of not one, but three, of our bell ringers, while this year in the space of just six weeks during April and May there have been three occasions of special note.
The first was reported last month when one of our youngest ringers, Jemima, conducted her first quarter peal, a composition of Grandsire Doubles. I commented then that this was a rare occasion. Well, Jemima has competition. Just two weeks later, thirteen-year old Sasha achieved the same remarkable feat. He opted to conduct an entirely different method, Plain Bob Doubles, and this required him to guide his team of ringers through 1260 changes, perhaps better understood in terms of the time it took, which was just under 45 minutes. His composure was extraordinary, his instructions, all given from memory, unhesitating and accurate. It was an excellent quarter peal.
[image to be added]
As a result, watched proudly by his mum, Luda, and applauded by his fellow ringers, Sasha became the second junior Leatherhead bell ringer in as many weeks to receive an award for exceptional achievement.
So now we come to the third occasion, which by the time this article is printed will also be a thing of the past. Right now we ringers are busily preparing for the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19th. Many of you will have celebrated the day in your various ways but to us weddings are not complete unless accompanied by the joyful sound of bells and we are all keen to play our part among the many tributes being made around the country. We have therefore chosen to ring a medley of different and varied pieces during the morning of the wedding day. The medley involves all ten of our wonderful bells, offering all of our ringers a chance to shine and, hopefully, offering you music to enjoy.
For some of Leatherhead's ringers the celebrations don't end there, though, and in the afternoon, once the wedding ceremony is over, we'll be heading over to Ashtead to ring a full peal of the appropriately named Union Triples lasting about three hours. Now that really is a rarity!
A Command Performance - from the May 2018 magazine
There's nothing quite so rewarding for a teacher as watching a pupil succeed. Prior to Evensong on Easter Sunday, April 1st, 14-year old Jemima didn't just succeed, she excelled.
Jemima started to learn to ring bells when she was 11 years old. When asked recently what attracted her to learn such an unusual skill she simply said, "I think it was just kind of the atmosphere up here [in the belfry] and I really like music anyway and it just sounded nice. Bell ringing has helped me with my shyness - I've had to conduct, so it's taught me to speak up a bit."
Well, yes, Jemima is shy but she is also determined. Which is why on Easter Sunday evening a somewhat nervous Jemima took hold of the rope of our number three bell ready to conduct a quarter peal for the first time in her life. Believe me, there is nothing easy about conducting a quarter peal. For one thing, forty-five minutes of "music", known as a "method", has to be arranged and memorised in advance and only the conductor knows exactly how the quarter peal will turn out - everyone else relies entirely on her guidance and direction. Furthermore, the piece that Jemima prepared for her first quarter peal attempt was Grandsire Doubles and required her to give no fewer than 63 commands, each delivered from memory and with absolute precision - otherwise the whole attempt would be a disaster. Then there's the knowledge that a whole team, or band, of fellow ringers has gathered together, all relying on the conductor: I've seen grown men crumple under the stress of the responsibility.
Jemima quickly "placed" her ringers, allocating each to the bell she wanted us to ring, before ensuring that we all checked the length of our bell ropes before we began. The only thing worse than a rope that's too long (the ringer risks being hit in the face) is a rope that's too short (the ringer ends up doing balletic manoeuvres en pointe to keep the bell in the right position - quite entertaining for the observer, misery for the ringer). A few minor adjustments, the slightest hint of anxiety as we did a brief practice run, and we were ready: Jemima gave the command for the quarter peal to begin.
If you happened to hear any part of that quarter peal on the evening of Easter Sunday I doubt that you would have considered the possibility that the person in charge was just 14 years old: it was a rare occasion and it was also a highly musical, well [text missing in magazine]
Those of us who have taught Jemima, and indeed all of her fellow Leatherhead ringers, could not be prouder.
[image to be added]
At the training session on Tuesday, April 10th, amidst applause from her fellow ringers, Jemima was presented with an award for exceptional achievement.
[image to be added]
Jemima with her band after conducting her first quarter peal.
A little bit of culture and history - from the April 2018 magazine
The Welsh have leeks, daffodils and tall, black Welsh hats, the Scots have tartan, whisky, sporrans and kilts, the Irish have leprechauns, whiskey (yes, they do spell it differently) and the gift of the Blarney, while the English have ... er ... well, most of us like roses, I suppose.
Actually, given that this is another missive from the belfry, you've probably guessed that the English have bells. Yes, agreed, so does just about every other nation but we English ring bells differently, and the difference is uniquely found in England -plus, of course, those countries whose cultures have been directly influenced by the English.
Whereas other nations ring bells with their mouths hanging downwards, creating a random clatter when rung, centuries ago we English developed a means by which we could ring bells with their mouths facing upwards, with rope and wheel, as a result of which we can control exactly when the sound is produced.
[image to be added - Two of Leatherhead's ten bells raised, ready to be rung]
So why does it matter? Well, it actually matters rather a lot, because without this adaptation the English people would have been unable to ring the amazing peals and quarter peals that for many centuries have celebrated every important historical occasion: the ringing of English bells is an art and an event, not just a noise. If you personally are not a bell ringer you might not have noticed the bells ringing when Prince William married Catherine Middleton but if you do watch the royal weddings on May 19th and October 12th listen out for the bells as the happy couples emerge from St George's Chapel. It won't be a random clatter, I'm sure. It's far more likely to be a clear and musical peal of the chapel's eight bells.
Interestingly, as Hugh Bryant, Licensed Lay Reader, commented in a sermon he gave recently to us Leatherhead District bell ringers, "...there isn't much in the Bible about bells and bell ringing. There's a mention in Exodus 28:33-35 of small bells attached to the robe of the original priest of the Temple, Aaron. The bronze cymbals used in worship in the temple were forerunners of church bells. The silver trumpets that the Lord commanded Moses to have made were to be used for "summoning the congregation, and for breaking camp" - for an assembly and an alarm. That pretty much sums up the function of the bells in a parish church, even today. The trumpets shall be blown - that is, the bells shall be rung - at times of celebration, festivals and holidays.
This year is going to be an extraordinary one. Not only will we witness and celebrate two royal weddings but we will also commemorate the centenary of the end of The Great War. "Battle's Over - A Nation's Tribute, 11th November 2018" is a national, indeed international, event marking the Armistice. It will be a unique, day-long commemoration that will take place throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and at scores of locations overseas, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Somaliland, the United States and Germany.
It will begin at 6am on November 11th with lone pipers outside every cathedral in this country and all around the world playing "Battle's O'er", a traditional tune played after a battle. At 6.55pm buglers will sound the Last Post at more than 1,000 locations where, at 7pm, WWI Beacons of Light will be lit signifying the light of peace that emerged from the darkness of war.
Then, at 7.05 pm, church and cathedral bells that are rung in the English tradition will be Ringing Out for Peace simultaneously all over the British Isles as well as Australia, Canada, the USA, South Africa and Italy. At Leatherhead we have signed up to this remarkable event. We are already training and preparing.
There's a while to go, of course, but on November 11th listen out for Leatherhead's ten wonderful bells as we take part in a fitting conclusion to a day of contemplation, commemoration and, ultimately, celebration: we won't only be celebrating history - we'll be making it.
No man is an island - from the March 2018 magazine
On several occasions in the past I have commented on how bell ringing is a matter of teamwork. Unlike a brilliant pianist, cellist or violinist, no matter how brilliant a bell ringer is, without a team of other ringers around him there can be no fabulous performance, no peal of bells. It's hard to imagine an audience looking forward to the thrill of hearing even a virtuoso pianist playing one single note for hours on end and, equally, people are unlikely to gather in the churchyard to hear "a bell in E b ", which happens to be the note of the biggest of our ten bells at Leatherhead. No, the true pleasure of bells lies in their being rung by a team of good ringers.
With one exception.
At a funeral, a single bell may be tolled very slowly. It sends a message to the world that a person has been lost, lost to those who knew and loved the person but also lost to us all. As John Donne says, "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." This person has gone and the world truly never will be the same again.
The tolling of a bell is a distinctive, melancholy sound and a practice that dates back many centuries. Historically there would be three occasions when a bell was tolled when a person passed away, but nowadays the bell is most usually tolled solely at the funeral. On Friday, February 2nd, Leatherhead ringer, Peter, performed that sad task to mark the passing of the father of fellow ringer, Helen.
Yet bells are also rung to commemorate a person's life and on the Sunday preceding the funeral, Helen was one of a team of six Leatherhead ringers who came together to ring a quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles in her father's memory. It was a particularly fine quarter peal.
Helen (back row, second from right) with fellow ringers after the quarter peal dedicated to her father.
In many ways quarter peals are like life itself: rarely recorded, they are a thing of the moment and once they have been completed they are gone from this world for ever. Yet they are also significant, each a unique rarity, and so nowadays a record is kept of each quarter peal rung throughout the country, both in an online website called "BellBoard" and in a magazine known as "The Ringing World". If you care to look, you will find our quarter peal there, dedicated to Richard Hewlett.
Ringing for Peace - from the February 2018 magazine
It goes without saying that those of us who ring and care for the bells of this country love them, and so we are bemused (and occasionally amused) by such headlines as the following in the national news:
I have myself been present in a belfry when, with ringing of an exceptionally high standard in progress, a neighbour rushed in and demanded its cessation because it was disturbing her garden party.
- "Ding dong over Handel's church bells triggered by ONE complaint: a 700-year-old church may be forced to silence historic bells donated by the celebrated composer Handel. (Express, Aug 2014)
- Noisy church bells silenced by complaints: a church's bell ringers have been ordered to cut back on practice because the noise is annoying the neighbours. (The Telegraph, Jan 2009)
- Coniston church bells: pub complainers silence "noisy" chimes (BBC News, Sep 2017)
- Sandwich church bells silenced after neighbour's noise complaint (BBC News, Nov 2017)"
On the surface of things this is quite depressing: does no one value or appreciate this unique aspect of our culture? Are bells really just a noise?
Well, let's think about this. Firstly, who would have thought that the silencing of village bells would make national news? And secondly, just consider the public outrage when such events occur.
Then again, look what happened when it was announced that Big Ben is to be silenced for four years for maintenance purposes: many people were genuinely dismayed. Why? Perhaps because that bell, which first rang out in 1859, is a symbol of so many things we hold dear, a British cultural icon that symbolises our parliamentary democracy and marks the hours of all our lives. Yes, bells really do hold a deep-seated place in our nation's psyche.
Consider now the historical occasions when our bells have been silent. During both world wars church bells were reserved for one purpose: to warn the population of invasion by enemy troops. That, however, didn't stop the mass ringing of belis up and down the entire country on November 15th 1942 to celebrate the Allied success at El Alamein. And of course at the end of both world wars it was the sound of bells pealing across the land that formed the backdrop to our nation's joy.
This year marks the centenary of the end of the Great War when, as former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley remarked recently, "On November 11, 1918, the ringing of church bells erupted spontaneously across the country as an outpouring of relief that four years of war had come to an end."
The fact is that more than 1400 bell ringers laid down their lives for peace in the "war to end all wars". They came from all walks of life and their sacrifice and that of their compatriots shall not be forgotten. On November 11th this year the bells of this country will be Ringing for Peace with ringers united in wanting to ring out a message of peace around the world. As part of this initiative, both the government and the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers have called for the recruitment of 1400 ringers in 2018, the same number as those who fell in the Great War. At Leatherhead we are proud to say that we are "doing our bit".
Our newest recruit, Stefan, responded directly to that national appeal. It takes time and dedication to learn to ring bells Stefan is learning the ropes and so training has already begun to enable Stefan to take his place in the ringing chamber on 11th November this year. There's a long time to go, but we hope that you, our neighbours, will listen out for him and support us and all the nation's ringers as we practise and prepare to ring out in unison to commemorate the Armistice Centenary.
Belfry Biography - from the January 2018 magazine
What do you do when your whole life seems to be one long, busy whirl, including running your own successful hairdressing salon, buying a house and then organising its complete renovation, attending countless meetings with architects and builders - all with hardly a minute to spare for a cup of tea? Simple, you take up bell ringing.
"Bell ringing is something I'd often wondered about. I have always loved hearing bells and thought it might be fun to learn," says Jayne. "Unfortunately, I never really knew how to set about it."
That was until two of Jayne's long-standing clients, Natalie and her daughter Jemima, came along for a haircut and started chatting about a new interest they had recently taken up - campanology, otherwise known as bell ringing.
"It was a real coincidence," says Jayne, "and so when Natalie said she thought there was about to be a new course beginning at Leatherhead I decided to get in touch with the ringers."
That one decision opened up a whole new world for Jayne. Ask any bell ringer and they'll tell you that one of its attractions is the way you can forget your daily cares as you concentrate fully on the intricacies of bell handling and ensuring the ringing is musical. Having long ago mastered the skills necessary to ring a bell independently, nowadays Jayne is a fully-fledged member of the Leatherhead team, happily ringing rounds and called changes on anything from six to ten bells and ringing the treble to plain hunt and to methods with such mysterious and fun names as Churchyard, Thingummybob, and Cloister Doubles - difficult skills that demand total concentration. This is where Jayne demonstrates her determined nature: a resolute gleam appears in her eyes and, lips pursed, she focuses on her ringing to the exclusion of all else.
Bell ringing is above all a team activity and you will have heard Jayne ringing in teams for services and numerous special events, including royal birthday celebrations, Easter, Remembrance Sunday, Christmas, and the New Year. Yet bell ringing has also led to other major events for Jayne and earlier this year we ringers filled the back pew at Leatherhead Parish Church to watch Jayne's confirmation.
Of course, inevitably there has been yet another subtle change in Jayne's life - nowadays the list of clients at Jayne's thriving hairdressing salon includes quite a number of us bell ringers! Busy, busy, busy...
Happy New Year to you all from the Leatherhead Bell Ringers!Belfry Biography - from the December 2017 magazine
If you have ever attended a service at Leatherhead Parish Church you may well at the end have seen a tall, bespectacled, dark-haired man leading the final procession, carefully and proudly bearing the cross aloft. If you attend regularly, you will doubtless also know that his name is Stuart and that, when he is not leading the clergy down the centre aisle, he is a pretty nifty chorister. Perhaps, though, you may not know that, like all of us bell ringers, Stuart arrives at church long before the majority of the congregation in order to welcome you in with the bright sound of bells. I can't remember a time when he didn't do so - and I've been here for decades!
Quiet, pensive and considerate, Stuart is one of our most courteous and reliable ringers. He is also our go-to person when we need a tenor ringer to keep the ringing orderly and rhythmical. Perhaps it is his chorister background that enables him to keep the beat, even when the rest of us are seemingly determined to go awry! In essence, called upon to ring the biggest bell he keeps his sheep corralled without so much as a glare at us miscreants if we, occasionally, try to break free from our allotted places.
There is a sense in which Stuart has been a victim of his own success: whilst others have been able to devote their time to learning the complexities of front bell ringing, time after time Stuart has dutifully taken his place on the biggest bell to ensure they have the best chance of success. Sad to say, only recently did any of us realise that this was, perhaps, the tiniest bit selfish and it was time someone else rang the tenor while Stuart had his turn to demonstrate his wider-ranging skills.
Nowadays, Stuart is just as happy to ring the smallest bell as the biggest, having sailed through his first quarter peal as a treble bell ringer at his first attempt. However, Stuart has yet another string to his bow. When he was asked whether he would like to train to be a steeple keeper he did not hesitate and swiftly completed his introductory course led by district master Richard Trueman. He rang a successful quarter peal this year.
Nowadays, under the guidance of our steeple keeper Mike and fellow assistant Julian, Stuart helps to keep our bells in good order. It was thanks to these three that Leatherhead's bells rang respectfully half-muffled prior to the service on Remembrance Sunday. Perhaps you heard that rare, slow, sad, mellifluous sound and were made mindful of the significance of the occasion. We hope so.
Meanwhile, all of us ringers are now busily practising a medley of musical ringing ready to welcome you to church during Advent and would like to take this early opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas.
Some of you may remember an article a few months ago in which we ringers were looking forward to a series of quarter peals to celebrate the birthdays of our three awesome octogenarians, Margaret, Rex and Peter. Of the three, Rex's requested method (belfry-speak for music) was probably the most demanding: Stedman Triples. Now that will doubtless mean nothing to you. Suffice it to say that among ringers Stedman is famous for being one of the most musical pieces you can ring. Unfortunately, it is also infamous for going wrong and, despite our best efforts, that is what happened on the day. We were all disappointed, but especially Rex.
He had reached the age of 80 and still not achieved a quarter peal of his favourite method.
Cue ringers from the wider world of bell ringing. Summonsed together by Epsom ringer, Jenny Heyworth, on Thursday, October 6th some of the county's best ringers travelled miles to join us at Leatherhead, all determined to ensure Rex achieved his life-long ambition - and this time he did it!
If at first you don't succeed...
Belfry Outing 2017 - from the November 2017 magazine
When Leatherhead bell ringer, Helen, first saw the narrow railway track at New Romney Station, Kent, she was more than slightly taken aback. After all, she had been promised a ride on a steam train and these lines looked suspiciously tiny to support the weight of the anticipated behemoth. All was swiftly revealed as the Northern Chief chugged cheerfully into sight along the 15" (381 mm) gauge light railway line which between 1926 and 1978 held the title of the smallest public railway in the word.
Built in 1925, the Northern Chief looks so bright and shiny you might imagine it had been constructed only yesterday, and we intrepid bell ringing adventurers and our families swiftly concertinaed ourselves into her first two carriages for the trip to sunny Dungeness.
This was one of the many highlights of the Leatherhead Belfry outing to Kent on September 30th. During the course of the day we rang at five delightful churches in Brabourne, Lydd, New Romney, Brookland and Appledore. All of them had their own special appeal. However, the title for the tower with the biggest wow factor has to go to St.Augustine Church in Brookland. This is a long low church with the most famous spire in Kent.
The campanile at Brookland
Brookland is part of Walland Marsh and because of the marshy ground the bell tower was not incorporated in the church building. The three-stage "candle-snuffer" campanile stands on its own in the churchyard and is the result of several enlargements of the original thirteenth-century bell cage. As you enter, the sight of the massive timber frame from which the spire is constructed is breathtaking. Our thanks to Julian for organising a fascinating and enjoyable day - complete with sunshine!
All Change at Leatherhead - from the October 2017 magazine
At 5.30 pm on Sunday, August 27th, ten people each grasped a rope ready to ring a very special quarter peal of Grandsire Caters. It was special for two reasons: firstly, it was being rung to celebrate the 80th birthday that week of Leatherhead ringer Peter Ford; and secondly, it was to be the last time that the old ropes were used before the whole set was replaced. It was an excellent quarter peal - it seemed as if the ropes knew that this was to be their last performance. The quarter peal successfully completed, we rang down all ten bells in peal and the bells hummed musically all the way down.
Preparing to ring for the last time with the old ropes.
Made to measure!
By 9 am the next day Mike, our steeple keeper, and Julian were back in the bell tower ready to disconnect and replace the old ropes. Only then did we learn just how worn out the old ropes were: the rope on the second bell, in particular, had worn literally to a single thread! It's amazing that it made it to the end of the 47 minute long quarter peal, and a tribute to the skill of its ringer, John, who controlled his 6 cwt bell perfectly: the remnant of rope must have been like elastic!
Replacing the ropes is a slow, meticulous process. Each rope is made to specific measurements depending on the size of the bell for which it is intended. Each must be hung in the ringing chamber at a precise height from the ground and all the sallies - the soft, multicoloured woollen section - must be accurately aligned. No easy task when each rope is a different length!
Julian unties the old rope...
... and Mike threads in the new.
Having attached the new ropes to the old, Julian pulled each old rope up through the ringing chamber ceiling, bringing the top of its replacement rope with it. The old knots were untied and the new ropes carefully knotted onto the bell wheels. More detailed measuring and adjustments and our new ropes were in place, ready for the bells to be rung again.
The first team to ring with the new ropes. Our thanks once again to the Friends of Leatherhead Parish Church for funding the replacements.
For Whom the Bells Ring - from the September 2017 magazine
If you attend Sunday morning services at Leatherhead you will invariably hear the sound of all ten bells ringing out to welcome you. Service ringing takes top priority for all of us ringers and it is not until after many months of practice that our learners reach a sufficiently high standard to be invited to ring on Sunday mornings and evenings.
There are many other occasions, however, when bells traditionally have an important role to play. Each year on Remembrance Sunday, for example, you will perhaps notice something very different about the sound of the bells: they are being rung "half-muffled". Muffles are leather pads fitted to a bell's clapper - the part that strikes the side of the bell - to reduce the volume. Our steeple keeper, Mike, fits the muffles to just one side of the clapper and this results in an 'echo' effect, with alternately loud and soft blows. It creates a wonderful, mellow, mellifluous, yet sad sound. Somehow the very presence of the muffles has an impact on us ringers - there is a certain hush in the ringing chamber, the mood is serious and the ringing is slower and steadier than usual.
We take our role seriously. Recently Jennifer, a member of the congregation, passed away. As the scores of people who attended her memorial service left the church, they will have heard the sad sound of a single bell tolled for some minutes by her friend, Peter Ford, as a mark of respect.
Yet there are also many joyous occasions when we ringers have a significant role to play. A photograph on one ringing chamber wall shows those of us who 'rang in' the new millennium. In fact, we 'ring in' every new year and have quite a party up there in the bell tower, culminating in watching any fireworks from the town's best vantage point - the tower roof! BBC Music Day, Olympics cycle race, the Queen's birthdays, her silver, golden and diamond jubilees - we Leatherhead ringers were there helping the nation to celebrate.
Probably our favourite occasions, however, are weddings. Couples nowadays can choose whether they want six or eight bells - some even leave church to a glorious full peal of ten bells.
Mr Robert Lamey awaits his bride, Kelly
Ready to ring for Mr and Mrs R. Lamey
Only fully trained ringers join the teams for these occasions - we want the best possible sound - and we ensure that we arrive early, usually well before the bride. We love being part of the couple's special day and we know that we are in a privileged position: we can discreetly admire the bride and bridesmaids as they arrive and have even been known to give the occasional groom an encouraging shake of the hand as he waits nervously inside the church. Up in the ringing chamber we have a TV screen so that we can watch the service progress and be absolutely sure that the sound of joyful ringing escorts the newly-weds on their way out through the West Door and on to their future together.
We would especially like to wish the newly-wed Mr and Mrs Robert Lamey a happy future and thank them for allowing us to be part of their special day.
Photo courtesy of Mr and Mrs R. Lamey and pursonphotography.com
Past and Present from the August 2017 magazine
As I look around the belfry at the friendly group of men, women and children who today make up our team of dedicated bell ringers at Leatherhead, it seems strange to think that fewer than 100 years ago bell ringing in Leatherhead was an exclusively male domain. Our belfry walls are covered with photos of rather stern looking men in smart suits, many with fob watches proudly suspended from their waistcoats, some with impressive muttonchop whiskers. History tells us that until the late 1890s ladies were not wanted in any belfry - after all, they might have wished to share some of the barrel of beer that was the payment given in many churches to thirsty male bell ringers for service ringing in the 1800s.
So everything was going well for the men at Leatherhead until, suddenly and without warning, a young lady appears on the Leatherhead bell ringing scene. There she is, in a photo dated 1930, taken during an outing to Highclere. She's young, she's confident - and she takes centre stage. Yet she had a role model...
Highclere outing 1930
Not far from that photo there is a large peal board, dated 1929, celebrating the first lady ever to ring a peal at Leatherhead Church: Miss I.L. Hastie - Irene Lucille my research reveals. She was about 30 years of age when she lived near and rang at Leatherhead but she travelled far and wide to ring bells and was even a respected ringer in the area around Portsmouth.
So not for her an "easy" bell. No, she rang a more difficult "inside" bell: bell number 3. She was a real trailblazer - and the men she rang with were obviously proud of her! Good for Miss I.L. Hastie!
So what difference did she make? Well, there's been a sea-change. I wrote only recently about how bell ringing has become a family affair. Nowadays our numbers are fairly evenly balanced and while we ladies are perfectly happy to step up to ring bells weighing nearly a tonne, our fellow male ringers might equally well choose to ring the smallest bell in the tower.
Meanwhile, somewhat to my surprise, I realise that I have become the first ever female captain of the Leatherhead Bell Ringers, nudged into post by men who are perfectly well accomplished to assume the role themselves: we work together as a team.
So, ladies in the belfry are now the norm. Yet there are still some special moments for us. Only a week ago, with two expert ringers at her side "just in case", a slightly nervous but determined Lizzie rang the massive tenor bell for the first time - perfectly. Her efforts won her a round of applause from all of us.
And then, on Sunday, July 2nd, Natalie took the treble bell for her first attempted quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles. Her comment after her success? She was all the prouder because this was also the first quarter peal she had rung together with her thirteen year old daughter, Jemima. Jemima, in turn, was ringing her first quarter peal on a more demanding inside bell - none other than bell number 3.
I think Miss Hastie would have approved.
Belfry Birthdays: Three Awesome Octogenarians - from the July 2017 magazine
It's an extraordinary coincidence that no fewer than three of Leatherhead's most faithful bell ringers are turning 80 years of age this year.
Margaret's birthday was the first, on June 9th, and she was determined to celebrate it in style, setting herself the enormous challenge of ringing her first ever quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on the day itself, a feat that requires enormous concentration and not a little physical fitness - after all, this petite lady was controlling a 7 cwt bell for a continuous period of more than 45 minutes. I would be delighted to report that we were successful, but the team was devastated when the attempt failed with less than a minute to go before the end!
Unfortunately, bell ringing is not like playing the piano: if we make a mistake we can't just pick up again from where we left off. We went wrong and so, sadly, despite all our efforts that was the end of this quarter peal for us. So near and yet so far.
However, it wasn't the end of our celebrations. Having recovered from our exertions, the team members gathered together to toast Margaret's birthday with a glass, or rather a plastic cup, of bubbly and tucked into a range of snacks, including a birthday cake created by Margaret's daughter and some mini birthday cakes created by Ned, the two-year-old son of Leatherhead ringer, Lizzie.
We may be disappointed but we are not deterred ... we already have another quarter peal attempt lined up for June 15th that is dedicated to Margaret.
[Ned at work 'preparing' Margaret's cake.]
Further quarter peals you might like to listen out for will be one on August 6th to celebrate the 80th birthday of our Vice Captain, Rex, and another at the end of August in honour of Peter Ford's 80th. Like Margaret, both Rex and Peter have chosen to ring highly challenging quarter peals, one being Stedman Triples and the other Grandsire Caters, involving all ten of Leatherhead's bells.
Margaret (third from right) on her birthday. Peter (third from left) and Rex (right) have birthdays soon.
Please wish us well! Meanwhile, we wish you all a very enjoyable summer.
First Class - from the June 2017 magazine
As in university life, there are occasions when "getting a first" can be a real cause for celebration and none more so than when one of our ringers achieves one of the greatest milestones in ringing - a first quarter peal. It takes about 45 minutes of extraordinary concentration to complete a quarter peal and in that sense perhaps it is somewhat akin to playing a symphony. There are some interesting differences, of course: you won't find a music stand in a belfry - we rely entirely on memory; and probably the conductor will be the only person involved who knows the composition the team will ring, instructing the ringers as to which section of the music they should ring next even as they are ringing. Imagine how a symphony orchestra might react if, without forewarning, the conductor were to keep rearranging their music throughout the performance!
So it is perhaps understandable that quarter peals are not commonplace events and it is very pleasing to realise that our ringers have rung no fewer than 20 successful quarter peals at Leatherhead within the past year, of which 12 were "firsts"!
I've mentioned some of these events in previous articles, of course, but it is in reviewing the past year that I realise how many there have been. Achieving their first quarter peals at their first attempts were Natalie, Lizzie, and, most recently, Helen, while, remarkably, Jemima and Sasha achieved the same on their 13th and 12th birthdays respectively. Four of these five ringers have since gone on to achieve further excellent "firsts" in a variety of methods involving six and eight bells.
Our established ringers have likewise been caught up in "first" fever, with Stuart swapping from tenor ringing to sailing through his first quarter on the treble bell and Julian and Peter taking their ringing to a new level with their
They did it! Firsts for Helen, Peter, Lizzie, Julian. first triumphant quarter peals of Plain Bob Doubles on one of the trickier "inside" bells.
Quarters lined up for the near future include one for Chris, ringing her first quarter peal "inside" for 50 years(!) and a first for Sheila of St.Simon's Doubles. In fact, if we get it, it will be a first for everyone in the team, so it's quite a challenge! Perhaps, though, the most impressive "first" will be Margaret's: she's practising hard ready to ring her first quarter of Triples (involving eight bells) on her 80th birthday, no less!
Wish us luck! Chris, Margaret, Sheila
Congratulations to all our ringers on their dedication, diligent practice, and success.
We hope that you hear us sometimes and that you enjoy the sound of Leatherhead's bells.
A Family Affair - from the May 2017 magazine
As reported last month, we ringers are currently looking forward to a new arrival - a complete set of bell ropes to replace our present set. So a couple of weeks ago we were pleased to welcome to our belfry Diane Pratt of Avon Ropes to show us a range of rope types to choose from. Scarcely had she entered the belfry than she spotted a photograph on the wall. It was of Stephen Brooker who was Tower Captain at Leatherhead from 1873 until 1894 and who had taken over his role, we believe, at the age of just 24. "I have that exact same picture at home," Diane announced with evident pleasure. "He's my great-great uncle!"0
Stephen Brooker photo
It's not entirely surprising that bell ringing tends to involve whole families; after all, if we want to attend weekly practices and ring for multiple services it makes sense to bring our children with us. I can still remember strapping my first baby into a rocking chair, placing him behind me in the belfry, and rocking the seat with one foot as I rang an 8cwt bell to a quarter peal lasting 45 minutes. My boy was not impressed!
The peal boards that hang in our belfry bear witness to the many families that have rung bells together at Leatherhead, the Marks family being one eminent example from the 19th century.
Some of you reading this may still remember the families who rang our bells during the 20th century.
On the left of this next photo, dated 1968, are three generations of the Smith family:
Arthur, Alan and tiny Caroline. Her sister, Rachel, and mother, Pauline, are standing further along the line.
Nowadays, Alan, Pauline and their daughters still ring bells.
Also smiling out of the photo are a young Anne Parr and her two children, Carol and Nicholas, all ringers.
Take a look at the back row, though, and some of you just might recognise a man who still rings at Leatherhead today, Peter Ford, complete with a mop of curly hair! His daughter, Susan, and her two daughters continue the family interest and are all excellent ringers.
Like Stephen Brooker, Peter Ford was Tower Captain here for twenty years, during which time he also acted as our steeple keeper. On heritage days it was his great pleasure to take visitors on a tour of the bells. This next photograph is one of my favourites. It shows Peter standing behind one of our smallest bells. When you consider that our biggest bell is three times this size, then it might give you some idea of what we are dealing with!
While it is far from compulsory to come along to ringing complete with your family, the family tradition still continues to this day. When Helen Baggs' daughter, Sophie, was looking for a skill to learn for her Duke of Edinburgh Award, bell ringing was Helen's immediate suggestion. On April 2nd, Helen successfully rang her first ever quarter peal at her first attempt. What could be a more appropriate ending than a photo of Helen on her quarter peal day?
Helen (centre) with other team members after her first quarter peal
New Ropes for Old - from the April 2017 magazine
For some time now - well, years actually - our steeple keeper, Mike, has been muttering and murmuring about the sad state of the ropes in our ringing chamber. Naturally we all nodded back sympathetically but because Mike does his job so well we didn't pay too much attention: we took it for granted that the bells and ropes would always be in perfect condition whenever required.
The matter came to a head, almost literally, when one rope fell apart as one of our ringers was practising her ringing technique. It started with bits of fluff descending like confetti on to Natalie's shoulders and ended abruptly with the entire length of shredded rope plummeting down to the ground, just missing her head.
There was no getting around it - the ropes were past their best and Mike had undisputedly told us so.
Undeterred, Mike commenced the repair work. Bits of older ringing ropes were retrieved from their dusty storage boxes, spliced to our current ropes, and put back into use. Today there are no ropes left in their original state - all have a fetching section of neat splicing at some point along their length, with one particular rope so extensively repaired that it has taken to repeatedly hopping off the bell wheel.
You might wonder why we don't just go and fetch some more rope from the nearest hardware store - after all, most have a good selection to choose from. Unfortunately, standard rope will not do - ringing ropes are highly specialised. They are custom made to measure by specialist bell rope makers using painstaking techniques and traditional materials such as flax line yarn, hemp, and the more modern pre-stretched polyester, plus of course pure wool for the brightly coloured sallies which provide a soft section for the ringer to grip.
Mike's handiwork - two ropes spliced together.
They have to be strong enough for us to haul up and ring Leatherhead's biggest bell comprising nearly a tonne of metal, yet supple enough not to chafe the hands of the ringer, even after three or four hours of continuous ringing. All this inevitably comes at a price.
Now this is where the church community never fails to amaze. Hearing of our plight, the PCC immediately agreed that new ropes must be purchased. Yet these are expensive times with many demands being made on the church purse.
Looking forward to new, matching, ropes.
So where were we to find the funding? Without hesitation, the Friends of Leatherhead Parish Church stepped in, offered to pay the full cost, and set about planning fund-raising activities, one of which was a quiz with Julian, our belfry secretary, as quiz master. So, if you are one of the many people who have been involved in raising funds and donating money for our new set of ropes, we ringers would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your remarkable generosity. Our order has already been placed with Avon Ropes and we look forward eagerly to their arrival in a few months' time.
Belfry Biography - from the March 2017 magazine
"I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone; best both for the body and the mind."
It can often be difficult to find the right words to describe a person, so I turn to a genius to find the right words for Margaret, one of our most faithful ringers, and "unassuming" seems to be a good place to start.
Margaret took up bell ringing several years ago after her husband sadly passed away. "I wasn't going to be the sort of person who sits about feeling sorry for herself," she told me once, "so I set out in search of new friends and interests." She didn't have far to go: our church is within walking distance of Margaret's home and we ringers were delighted to welcome her. Determined to make progress, she quickly mastered the basics and moved on to more advanced ringing, recently ringing her third successful quarter peal.
So why "unassuming"? Well, because on practice nights you will see Margaret waiting patiently for her turn, insisting that others should take priority; because when our more recent learners were battling to learn to ring rounds, a word in Margaret's ear and she arrived at practice sessions early, ready to ring rounds ad nauseam; because although she thinks her own achievements are of little consequence, when other ringers achieve a personal goal Margaret is the first to congratulate them and when they are disappointed Margaret is ready with words of consolation; because when we celebrate at Christmas, New Year, and Easter, Margaret arrives with fabulous home-made cakes, mince pies and beautifully wrapped gifts of chocolate for every ringer, which she distributes just for the pleasure of giving; and because last year, when each of our learners in turn rang their first ever quarter peal, Margaret was sitting on a bench outside the church listening intently and willing them on. Simple and unassuming. She doesn't know we notice, but we do.
Here's another word - stylish - and I don't just mean her clothes sense, although it has to be said that while the majority of us arrive for practice nights in jeans and T-shirts, Margaret invariably appears immaculately dressed in matching skirt, blouse and shoes, teamed with perfectly selected jewellery. No, I mean her stylish ringing technique. As neat in technique as her attire, she controls her bell with seemingly effortless ease and if, on the odd rare occasion, the bell should drop ever so slightly out of place, a determined gleam appears in Margaret's eye - this 8 cwt bell needn't imagine it's getting the better of her - and with a deft flick of her wrist and perhaps a slight curtsey for extra pull, Margaret swiftly has her bell back in line.
There may be some of you reading this who have, at some time or another, wished you could try something new but haven't, because you've persuaded yourself learning is all for youngsters. Well, I don't think Margaret would agree with you. She is one of those unassuming people who are unknowingly inspirational. However, don't take my word for it - just ask any of her grandchildren and four great-grandchildren! I once asked Margaret herself about this. "I really enjoy ringing," she said.
"I've made many good friends. I travel to other churches to practise there, too. It's good exercise and an excellent way to keep your mind active."
Mr Einstein couldn't have expressed it better!
Did You Know? - from the February 2017 magazine
It is a striking fact about church life that very little goes on without the support of unpaid volunteers. All bell ringers throughout the UK, from the biggest cathedral to the tiniest village church, devote many voluntary hours a week to practising and then ringing for services and events. Did you know, however, that there are many other tasks that ringers carry out and many other talents they need to have?
For example, did you know that the church clock is wound up by hand today, just as it always has been? The clock mechanism occupies one corner of the belfry ringing chamber and is wound up every week by whichever of our ringers is feeling particularly fit and energetic. The ringer climbs on to the tall, wooden steps beside the clock case to reach the correct height at which to wield the massive handle and raise the heavy weights whose chains hang straight down to the church below.
Look up to the top of the tower and you might spot a flag flying on a mast. Did you know that the several different flags are carefully repaired by a parishioner when wind-torn and are hoisted by ringers as the occasion requires? Usually that ringer is our steeple keeper, Mike Todd. The flagpole itself rises from an all but inaccessible point on the tower roof (unless you happen to be a pigeon), so when it recently became clear that the halyard was beyond further repair it was fortuitous that Mike, with his mariner’s expertise, and Julian, an engineer, were able to devise a solution for replacing the rope safely, providing the necessary materials themselves.
Winding up the clock
Being a mariner makes Mike the ideal steeple keeper. Ringing bells inevitably results in wear and tear to our bell ropes. When they fray too much to be reliable Mike has the necessary splicing skills to join new sections to old and ensure the longest possible life for the ropes. This is no simple matter and Mike spends countless hours working on the ropes at his home, liberally coating his dining room with rope fluff in the process.
Yet as steeple keeper Mike is also responsible for the comprehensive maintenance of Leatherhead’s ten bells and their fittings, constantly ensuring that everything is in good order for all of us to ring. He checks for possible cracks in the bells, tests the integrity of the wooden stays that prevent the bells from unexpectedly revolving full circle, tightens the bolts on the bell pivots and those securing the clappers within the bells, decides when the headstocks need repainting and gets the job done along with his assistants, Julian and Stuart. All this and much more. Clappers, by the way, are the parts that strike the side of the bell. They are surprisingly heavy – it usually takes two people to lift one.
Mike climbs between the bells to assess their condition
As our steeple keeper Mike commands a wide range of skills that are increasingly rare and highly valued. Thankfully, he is happy to pass them on to future generations, including all of us who have recently attended one of his entertaining rope splicing lessons.
Volunteers. Where would we be without them?
Fact and Fiction - from the January 2017 parish magazine
As a child you may have read Enid Blyton books, among them a favourite of mine, “The Faraway Tree”. Three children, Jo, Bessie and Fanny, climb a tree with magical qualities in an enchanted forest. After each adventure, the children slide down the Slippery-Slip, spiralling down the tree-trunk where, at the base of the tree, a little door pops open, ejecting each child onto a tuft of green moss.
The little door at the bottom of the bell tower in Leatherhead sometimes reminds me of that story. I wonder whether any of you has ever looked at it and wondered what lies behind? It is unusually small and most adults have to stoop to enter: our predecessors were clearly shorter than we are. Around the door is graffiti, scratched into the wall by children whose lessons were taught at the foot of the tower hundreds of years ago, presumably not in the same era as when the town fire engine was kept there! Climb the stairs and you will come to another small door on your left which opens to reveal a balcony where we ringers sometimes sit for services if the church is full. Enter the church via the west door, look up, and you can see it. In bygone times this was the level where the ringers stood to ring the bells before a new ringing chamber was fitted out higher up.Early ringing chamber
We now continue up the spiral stairs to discover another small door and enter the present ringing chamber. Covering one entire wall you will find unusual historic boards, records of charitable donations to the people of Leatherhead, all lost in the South Sea Bubble. Other walls display scores of peal boards, including one dated 1929 celebrating the first Leatherhead peal ever rung by a lady, and another of combined Kent and Oxford rung in 1792.
Two hundred years later a crack band of Leatherhead ringers tried to replicate that peal – and failed. Our respect for our predecessors grew! All along the lower walls there are pictures of Leatherhead vicars and ringers past and present.
Back to the staircase and we come across another door beyond which the stairs wind up still further. On our left again is the massive chamber where the ten bells hang in their wooden frame, majestic and enormous. The biggest bell weighs nearly a tonne. This bell also doubles as the clock bell that strikes every hour throughout the day. On each wall there are louvred windows that release the sound of the bells across the town. To reduce noise levels these windows have been boarded up for decades – the true sound of our Leatherhead bells has not been heard within living memory.
Jo, Bessie and Fanny evidently do not suffer from vertigo and eventually reach the top of the Faraway Tree where there is a ladder. We can do likewise and emerge from the top of the tower onto the roof with far-reaching views across Surrey. Look up just after midnight on New Year’s Eve and you might see us watching local firework displays. We wish you all a happy New Year!
If you would like to see for yourself what lies behind the small door, come along on Heritage Days or contact 01737 842220 to arrange a private viewing.
Belfry Biography - from the December 2016 parish magazine
Some people need little introduction to other church members: Sheila Cole is one of them. You may have met her serving you Sunday lunch in the church hall, or as a member of the Mother's Union. At Martha's Market she champions the cause of better hearing, while on Sundays you will invariably encounter her seated at the back of the church in the pew that has been reserved for bell ringers since time immemorial.
Sheila started to ring the bells at Leatherhead more than thirty years ago when our belfry captain was Alan Smith, and soon became a valued member of the team.
Sheila's accounting abilities quickly came to light and she was elected belfry treasurer, a post she continues to execute reliably to this day. If you want someone to collect the lunch money during a belfry outing, Sheila's your woman. If you want someone to organise the belfry Christmas dinner, Sheila has it sorted by midsummer! Need someone to keep an accurate record of Leatherhead's peal and quarter peal achievements, painstakingly transcribed in copperplate handwriting?
You've guessed it - Sheila again! [image waited]
In the belfry she is indispensable, cheerfully supporting more recent learners during practice sessions. Many of us with children have Sheila to thank for looking after our offspring while we ring the bells: my own two boys especially appreciated the chocolate eggs and presents Sheila remembered to add to her to-do list at Easter and Christmas.
Sheila rang her first quarter peal in 1993. Most people begin with a quarter peal where just five bells are constantly changing places.
Not Sheila - her first quarter peal was Grandsire Caters with no fewer than ten bells.
After three decades of ringing Leatherhead's bells, Sheila's dedication continues undiminished. Invariably present at Tuesday evening practices, she is a stalwart ringer for Sunday services, regarding ringing bells as part of her personal service to God. Since 2013 Sheila has accomplished at least one quarter peal every year, including her first quarters of Plain Bob, Grandsire Doubles and Grandsire Triples. Linger for a while after the Christingle service on December 4th and you might hear Sheila ringing a quarter peal of St. Simon's Doubles, a "first" for all involved; approach the church on Christmas Day and you will hear Sheila again, helping to make the day extra special; and at midnight on New Year's Eve, Sheila will be there along with all of us Leatherhead ringers, ensuring that the bells peal out to wish you all a joyous and harmonious New Year.
Belfry Outing - from the November 2016 magazine
It would be pleasing to report that the day of the annual belfry outing, September 10th, dawned bright and fair - but sadly this was not the case. In fact, the day scarcely seemed interested in dawning at all, with the result that we Leatherhead ringers and families set out for East Sussex beneath a blurred, grey sky, our car windscreens speckled with drizzle.
Our first destination was Holy Trinity Church at Hurstpierpoint, where our hosts were waiting with refreshments. By 9 am everyone was happily gathered around the tea table munching biscuits. By 9.15 am, our proposed starting time, they were still there. Time for action. Summonsing my team, I confidently led us to a set of doors at the foot of the tower, flinging them open to reveal a motley array of cleaning materials: access to the tower was in fact via an external door. Grinning more than the wet weather would seem to warrant, we trooped outside and up a flight of steps to the belfry ringing chamber for some pleasingly varied ringing.
Our next stop was St Margaret's Church, Ditchling. It has an unusual anticlockwise ring: most belfries, including Leatherhead's, have a clockwise arrangement, so this was a real challenge that everyone was keen to meet.
We didn't have far to walk for our lunch at the White Horse Inn -the door was just on the opposite side of the road from the church. We can recommend the menu - the portions were enormous, enough to brighten the eyes of the hungriest ringer.
The first church of the afternoon was St. John's, Southover.
Although greatly altered, the building was originally the late 11th century hospitium of the adjacent Lewes Priory. Despite being lighter than the tenor at Leatherhead, it took two people to raise the 17 cwt tenor bell and tested the skills of even our most experienced ringers.
The final tower of the day was at St Mary's Church, Barcombe. This was our only ground floor ring and the six bells, arranged behind a beautifully engraved glass screen, have a rather long draught - in other words, the ceiling looks to be a very long way up and the ropes come an unnervingly long way down! Nonetheless, all of our ringers, led by Vice-Captain Rex, managed some very creditable ringing, culminating in a well rung course of Cambridge Surprise Minor.
Now all that remained was to go for a cup of tea in Barcombe, right next to the River Ouse. Boats had been reserved for the party, but the drizzle now having developed into a steady downpour, all but five decided to forego the pleasure. Those of us intrepid enough to go out on the river had an hilarious time racing upstream and down, or more usually back-paddling frantically to avoid bumping into the banks.
Many thanks to Julian Steed for his superb organisation.
Leatherhead Learners - from the October 2016 magazine
Every ringer in the belfry is proud of the "Leatherhead Learners" - the group of people who, out of a sense of curiosity, came along to the Belfry Open Day just over a year ago and who are still here today ensuring that the church congregation arrives to services accompanied by the sound of Leatherhead's bells. After so many months of diligent practice they might be forgiven for wondering when they will ever be known as the "Leatherhead Learned". Perhaps it's time to introduce them to you.
"When I first came along I was confident I'd have it all conquered within a matter of weeks," was Lizzie's comment a few weeks ago when she attended a whole-day training session in the Reeves Room. "Now I realise there's always something else to learn."
Lizzie had always wanted to ring bells but had never quite known how to go about it and it still seemed like a far-fetched dream even when she heard about the courses offered at Leatherhead -she had baby Ned, just a few weeks old, to consider after all. She hadn't reckoned with the childcare skills of our established ringers, Margaret and Sheila, who vied to bounce baby Ned on their knees week after week while his mum wrestled determinedly with the first steps of bell handling. Nor was baby Ned too perturbed by the ensuing clatter: he looked unbelievably cute in the fetching pair of ear defenders his mum bought for him. It's all been worth it: exceptionally, just over a year since starting to ring, Lizzie has already reached a major milestone with a superb quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles on the treble, achieved at the first attempt on August 31st.
Other members of the group include the mother-and-daughter learners Natalie and Jemima plus Helen and Sophie, our most recent recruit who, after just a few weeks of lessons, is already ringing well-struck rounds to a standard that normally takes months to achieve. Naturally, there is occasionally an element of family rivalry apparent, but it's hard to decide whether it is the mother or daughter who is best pleased when each achieves a new milestone in their training.
Jemima, Natalie, Sasha and Lizzie check out the theory between ringing sessions.
Helen shows daughter, Sophie, how to form coils ready to ring a bell up.
Jemima and Sophie are not the only keen junior learners - young Sasha, at barely four feet tall, can be relied on to race for a box, or even two, to stand on to ensure he can reach the ropes, especially when he spots that his favourite bell, the six, is yet to be taken. Once the bell of choice for Stuart and Sheila, woe betide them if they make the mistake of getting in his way! His happy smile as he reaches for the sally is infectious so Stuart and Sheila have wisely opted to move on to new aspects of bell ringing and we congratulate Stuart on completing his first quarter peal on the treble at his first attempt on September 4th, a brilliant achievement, while Sheila is delving into the intricacies of ringing methods on an 'inside bell'.
There are yet two more "Leatherhead Learners'' to introduce: Jayne and Anthony. They started ringing a few months after the others but have been as enthusiastic and determined as any to master the necessary skills and are now ringing rounds on six, eight and even ten bells and have recently demonstrated that they have a real flair for leading on the treble.
If some of these terms seem a little odd to you, it's only because learning a wealth of new words is just one minor aspect of the process of learning to ring bells. All of us, young and old, practise weekly; we attend District practices; we represent our tower and District in competitions locally and nationally; we do our best to achieve peals and quarter peals to mark notable events; and most importantly we ring every week to call you to worship. Listen out for us as you approach the church - we may not be perfect - yet - but we are trying hard!
News from the Belfry - from the September 2016 magazine
Like Mother, Like Daughter
When Natalie and Jemima Bleackley came along to the Leatherhead Tower Open Day just over a year ago and made their way cautiously up the tower stairs to the ringing chamber, little did they know what significant steps they were taking.
"Jemima was curious to see what it was all about," Natalie explains, "so of course I went along with her. Jemima was still just eleven years old and we were told that she would need to be accompanied when she came for lessons, at least until she was 12 years old. It seemed to me that, since I had to be there anyway, I might as well also start to learn, so I signed up too - and now I'm hooked. We both are."
"They both took to it like ducks to water. In fact that whole group was, and still is, exceptional," says Mike Todd, Belfry Steeple Keeper and one of the team of tutors. "There's a great deal of camaraderie and not a little rivalry in that group. They urge each other on. Within an unusually short period of time, both Natalie and Jemima have become confident, steady ringers."
It wasn't long before both mother and daughter were sufficiently skilled to be elected to join the Guildford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers. Among other benefits, this meant that they were both eligible to join District practices at venues all around Surrey. Jemima was soon also invited to join the Surrey Young Ringers, a group formed exclusively of young people aged 18 years and younger. Supervised by adult experts, the youngsters hold their own practices, led and conducted throughout by the group's own young members. Jemima was especially pleased when the group chose her to be Surrey's first reserve for the National Youth Ringing Competition and at just 12 years of age she travelled up to London with her mum to take part.
Natalie explains, "That was a really great opportunity for Jemima to learn what happens in competitive ringing and, although in the end she wasn't required to ring in the competition, she did go up into the belfry with her team and watch what was going on. Afterwards we were both invited to ring the bells at London churches that you normally only hear about in nursery rhymes! It was an amazing experience."
However, there is more to bell ringing than competitions. One of the biggest milestones is to achieve your first quarter peal. A quarter peal comprises continuous and accurate ringing of bells to a particular method (belfry speak for music) for about 45 minutes. Like all the members of their group in Leatherhead Natalie and Jemima have been honing their skills as treble ringers and they were delighted when Jemima was invited to attempt her first quarter peal on July 18 - her 13th birthday. Jemima chose the method herself, Grandsire Doubles, and was required to ring a particularly complicated quarter peal. This she managed unhesitatingly and, with an excellent performance, accomplished her first quarter peal at her first attempt in a time of 43 minutes - an exceptional achievement. The treble bell at Leatherhead weighs no less than 6 cwt - 305 kg. To ring it for that length of time demands skill, concentration and determination! Of course, it's Natalie's turn next! So no pressure there!
L: Jemima's first quarter peal: Jemima afterwards with her mum, Natalie, younger sister, Maddie, and Jemima's fellow quarter peal ringers.R: Mother and daughter
News from The Belfry - from the August 2016 magazine
Tall, strong, calm, intelligent and 100% reliable - that's Rex Woodland, our belfry Vice-Captain for more years than any of the rest of us can remember.
Rex learned to ring in the West Country as a boy, but often comments that when he moved to Fetcham, together with his wife Janet, he knew nothing but the basics. Once here in Leatherhead, however, his ringing skills progressed rapidly in the company of such Leatherhead ringers as Anne and David Parr, David Martin, Peter Ford, Arthur, Alan and Pauline Smith and all their families.
Rex has rung in numerous peals and countless quarter peals over the years. Come up into the belfry and you will see his name on peal boards alongside those of some of the best ringers the Leatherhead District has ever known. Still much sought-after today as a ringer, especially for quarter peals, he is a remarkably steady tenor ringer who rapidly establishes the pace for the other bells, but he is also a highly competent ringer of complex "methods" - belfry-speak for bell ringing music.A patient man by nature, Rex has devoted countless hours in the belfry to helping others to improve their ringing skills and is always ready with a brief but perceptive comment, tips and advice that can make all the difference. Many of today's Leatherhead ringers owe him a debt of gratitude for having introduced them to the art of bell ringing and for his continued support, guidance and instruction. As belfry Vice-Captain, Rex regularly assumes charge of the belfry on Sunday mornings and on practice nights. His in-depth knowledge of our ability ensures that the ringing is of the right level for each individual ringer and standards are high.
When you approach the church on Sunday mornings, you will invariably be escorted by the sound of up to ten bells rung with enthusiasm and dedication by our team of bell ringers. Not every church in the country can boast such a welcome. One of the ways in which we are different is that there has always been a strong element of continuity in Leatherhead belfry. On September 25th at 5.30 pm Rex will be ringing in another, extra-special, quarter peal - this time in celebration of his reaching a remarkable milestone: Rex's fiftieth year as a Leatherhead ringer. He has requested Bob Major, a method we haven't attempted for many years. We hope you'll listen out for us and wish us luck.
On June 12 2016 Rex was a member of the team that rang a quarter peal to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday and on that occasion he rang the 5th bell. The photo shows Rex pointing towards a blue peal board which marks the ringing of a peal to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, dated 1977, when, coincidentally, Rex also rang the fifth bell.Ann Steed
News from The Belfry - from the July 2016 magazine
The weekend of June 10-12 was extremely busy for the Leatherhead ringers.
It began with the wedding of the Rector's daughter Bethany to Damon. The happy couple emerged from the church to a peal of ten bells, not once but twice, having returned for a second exit in order to pass through an arch of cricket bats. This is the first time that Natalie and Jemima Bleackley have rung for a wedding and they had raced to the church after school in order to ensure that there was a ringer for every bell in the tower. Ringing on ten bells is no easy matter and they really excelled.
Saturday June 11th was the date of the belfry mini outing, when, contrary to forecasts, the sun shone all day and more than 30 people descended on the villages of Buckland and Betchworth for a very enjoyable morning of ringing at the churches of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Michael.
The church of St. Mary the Virgin is thought to have been built in about 1380 and is famous for its bell tower with a shingled spire and ringing chamber accessed by an open, winding wooden staircase. Those making the ascent were rewarded by the opportunity to ring the six delightful bells, the biggest of which weighs 2 cwt less than the smallest bell in Leatherhead tower. Our thanks to David Sayce for arranging access to the belfry. The church of St. Michael mostly dates from the mid thirteenth century but has fragments built into the church that date from the eleventh century. It is probably best known for being the setting for the first wedding in the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral". It boasts eight bells which were a pleasure to ring and we were able to ring a particularly pleasing touch of Stedman Triples, expertly conducted by Roger Tompsett. Our thanks to Martin Higgins for lending us the key to the belfry.
The standard of ringing at both churches was very good and so we all set off for our lunchtime barbecue well satisfied with the knowledge that we ringers had done ourselves proud. We were delighted to have the company of our former Leatherhead vicar David and his wife Ginny Eaton at the barbecue, which was ably cooked by Julian who had donned his chef's hat for the occasion. Soaking up the sun in a flower-filled garden, we enjoyed several hours chatting, eating, drinking and, in some cases, playing table tennis, with not a single raindrop in sight.
The team ringing for HM The Queen's 90th Birthday
However, there was still no time for a rest because Sunday June 12th was the date of the Queen's official birthday celebrations. Not only were the Leatherhead ringers present at 10 a.m. to ring for morning service, but we also ascended the tower once again promptly at midday to ring in response to the request from Buckingham Palace for all the bells in the country to ring at that hour.
During the course of the day listeners will have heard a range of items, from rounds called to the special sequence known as "Queens" through to a complicated full extent of Grandsire Doubles with 13 year old Jemima Bleackley on the treble. Everyone was involved, from our newest learners to our oldest experts, with one new learner, Jayne, receiving a spontaneous round of applause as she concluded her ringing. After over an hour of varied ringing a smaller group of our more experienced ringers rang a quarter peal in Her Majesty's honour, which was completed by 2.45pm.
The photograph shows the ringers who took part in the special ringing that started at midday. We hope that perhaps you heard us and were able to enjoy the sound of the full peal of ten Leatherhead bells ringing out across the town.
From the Belfry - from the June 2016 parish magazine
Her Majesty the Queen was 90 on Thursday, 21 April 2016, and many of you will have heard church bells ringing on that day. Members of our own belfry team here at Leatherhead were involved in several peals and quarter peals around the Diocese to mark the occasion.
The Palace has announced, however, that the main celebrations are to be held over the weekend of 10-12 June to coincide with the Queen's Official Birthday. On Friday 10 June there will be a special service at St Paul's Cathedral; on Saturday 11 June there will be the Trooping the Colour ceremony; and on Sunday 12 June there is to be the "Patron's Lunch" along the Mall, celebrating Her Majesty's patronage of over 600 organisations in the UK and around the Commonwealth since 1952. It is anticipated that there will also be many other street parties in the UK and elsewhere at the same time.
Her Majesty is, of course, also Head of the Church of England, and the Palace has requested that special ringing should take place at lunchtime on the Sunday to coincide with the "Patron's Lunch", particularly as this would be an unusual time for ringing in many towers. Ringers throughout the country have therefore been encouraged to arrange special ringing between 12 noon and 2 pm on that day.
The bell ringers at Leatherhead will take part in this historic occasion and the bells of Leatherhead will be heard alongside those of other churches across the land. All of our ringers, ranging from our youngest new learner, "Little Peter" aged just nine years, through to "Big Peter" aged 79 years, will be ringing a medley of church bell music including rounds, call changes and a selection of more difficult pieces, known as methods, and culminating in a quarter peal attempt to be dedicated to Her Majesty. If you are near the church on that day, listen out for us - those of you with a good ear just might be able to discern the ringing of a sequence where the bells ring in the order 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, known as "Queens".
Sasha Lewis, our second youngest ringer, will also be ringing for the team on 12 June.
Notes from the Belfry - from the May 2016 parish magazine
On Palm Sunday 20th of March, a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1260 changes was rung by the following:
1 Peter Ford
2 Ann Steed
3 Claire Stay
4 Rosemary Henderson
5 John Verity
6 Ron Diserens
7 Roger Thompsett
8 Mike Todd
This was rung to welcome Ella Rose, born on 25th of February, granddaughter of Mike Todd; to celebrate the birthday of Claire Stay; and to mark Peter Ford's 20 years as Tower Captain.
Conducted by Ann Steed
from the April 2016 Parish Magazine
Tower Captains Past and Present
Did you know that the sound of bells you hear every Sunday as you approach the church is a sound exclusive to England and a few scattered places in countries where the English have settled?
Throughout the world church bells are normally rung with their open mouths facing downwards towards the earth. Only in England, many centuries ago, was the bold decision taken to ring the bells with their joyous mouths facing upwards and outwards towards the world, inviting the faithful to come to church. Only here is the ringing of bells truly a musical art and a skill every bit as demanding as playing the most complicated musical instrument.
Here in Leatherhead the ringers practise every week, just as their predecessors practised many centuries ago.
Among ringers of the past the name that is probably most outstanding is that of Benjamin Simmons. He came to Leatherhead from Fulham in the 1770s to take up his trade as carpenter. He lived at "The Nook", Poplar Road, and worked for Abraham Elliott in the timber yard opposite the Parish Church. It was Simmons who introduced the art of change ringing to Leatherhead parish. His influence raised change ringing to the high standard that it had achieved by 1792.
Under his leadership the Leatherhead team became renowned throughout Surrey and Sussex, often ringing as guests in other towers. Simmons, his brother Edward, plus James Brown, Richard Millard, Thomas Fuller and William Ellis, all of Leatherhead, were all members of the elite ringing circle known as the College Youths.
Simmons' recorded ringing exploits span a period of forty years from 1776 to 1816. Several of the peals which he conducted are commemorated by boards in the district, six of which may be seen hanging in the ringing chamber of Leatherhead Church; others may be seen in churches in Epsom, Horsham and Brighton. On one famous occasion in 1779 he walked to Brighton, then known by its ancient name of Brighthelmstone, with some Horsham ringers and took part in two peals at St. Nicholas Church in the centre of the town during a long weekend before he walked back to Leatherhead.
Among the many names found on the dozens of peal boards hanging on the belfry walls it is difficult to establish exactly which were former Tower Captains, although Stephen Brooker is known to have taken on the role in 1873 and his immediate successor, in 1894, was William Marks. It is equally certain that they were all exceptionally talented and clever people. Arthur C. Otway, William E. Otway, John Hoyle, William Messam, Charles, George and James Marks, Edward Hull, and J. Linney are just some of the many names that adorned the Leatherhead peal boards throughout the 1800s.
Following on from William Marks, Arthur Dean assumed the helm, remaining Tower Captain right through to 1941. From 1941 to 1965 the baton was taken up by George Marriner.
This was also the time when the Smith family began to appear in the belfry records. If you visit the belfry you will see photographs of George and also of Arthur Smith smiling out from the midst of their team of ringers of the mid-20th century. During the second half of the century it was the turn of Arthur's son, Alan, who continues to ring to this day in the West Country. Among the ringers who supported Alan were his entire family, the entire Parr family, the Ford family, the Woodland family and numerous others. It is clear that bell ringing is, as it always has been, very much a family activity, with tiny tots accompanying their parents to practices and each in their turn learning to master the skills of bell ringing.
Alan's successor, Peter Ford, has ably captained the ship well into the 21st century, supported by ringers young and old, including the Wakley family, the Steed family, and many other dedicated individual ringers, without whom the bells would fall sadly silent. Today the bells of Leatherhead are rung by an enthusiastic team of ringers aged from just nine years to nearly 80. You can hear us every Tuesday acquiring and practising a uniquely English skill so that the bells of Leatherhead will continue to be heard into the future.
After ringing at Leatherhead Church for more than 50 years, Peter Ford knows the belfry better than anyone else - it's his second home. For many of those years, Peter has been Tower Captain. Now, as he approaches his 80th birthday, he has decided to take on a less demanding role, although happily he is still going to continue to ring. Many of us ringers have known Peter for a very long time and we feel that his many decades of dedication to the belfry and the church merit some notice and appreciation. We have therefore put together a few thoughts and impressions of Peter to give you an idea of what one committed churchgoer has been achieving in the belfry above your heads:
"How do you start to describe someone like Peter? He greets you with a smile and is genuinely pleased to see you. And you get used to his awful jokes - just part of him. Ready to help everyone," says Sheila Cole.
Another of our ringers, Rex, has rung alongside Peter for nearly 50 years! In fact, this year is also his 50th anniversary as a Leatherhead ringer. He was always impressed by Peter's dedication - all those years ago Peter was working, raising two young children, and still managing to ring Leatherhead's bells on a regular basis. It was part of the "family" feel in the belfry that Rex's wife, Janet, was always on hand to act as a child minder when everyone else was ringing.
Someone else who remembers the early years at Leatherhead is Mike. "Peter always gave a warm welcome to visitors, as I found out when I ventured up the tower after some 42 years away from ringing. He was very patient as I floundered through the simple ringing exercises I had been familiar with all those years before. According to the visitors' book, my first ringing at Leatherhead had been in 1959. I clearly remember the men-only, stern band with their waistcoats, stiff collars and ties, Brylcream in abundance. I was relieved to find when I returned to Leatherhead that Peter and his friendly band were having none of that!"
Peter started his ringing career as a youngster in Ewell and has continued ever since - a competent, steady ringer, always early getting the bells up for weddings and on Sundays.
Peter has been Tower Captain twice - the first time when his predecessor Alan Smith went with his wife Pauline to live in Fiji for some years, and then again about twenty years ago when Alan and Pauline moved to the West Country.
Over his many years as captain Peter has been instrumental in keeping the bells ringing out across Leatherhead, encouraging people to take up ringing and training them to be reliable ringers, with the result that Leatherhead is one of the few churches in Surrey where worshippers are regularly summoned to the Sunday service by the sound of ten bells.
Peter has been saying he wanted to give up as Tower Captain for some years - we just ignored him! But this year he was more insistent. So here we are - a new era.
Leatherhead Bell Ringers
"Where Do They Switch Them On?" - from the November 2015 magazine
This question was asked by a visitor to a country church on hearing the bells being rung. Most churches (but not all) with bells have a band of local volunteers who ring on Sundays for services, for weddings, or other special occasions.
This is an English custom, where each bell is attached to a headstock and controlled by a wheel with a groove round the rim, with a rope attached. This allows the ringer to control the swing of 1 bell from the floor below. We have 10 bells in our church but can't always manage to have them all rung each Sunday, owing to lack of ringers.
There are over 5,500 churches in England with bells hung for ringing as described above: 220 in Wales; 21 in Scotland; 37 in Ireland; and 140 in the rest of the world.
This way of ringing started in the 1600s and hasn't changed since. We are currently teaching a band of locals to keep this tradition going, to proclaim that the church is alive and well, not a museum. Ann Steed is running these courses, lasting several weeks and all the students seem to be keen and are learning well. If you would like to join them please call 01737842220.
Last year we lost one of our ringers, Anne Parr, a devoted ringer here in Leatherhead for over 50 years and a good friend. A "peal" lasting 3 hours was rung earlier this year in her memory, and a board recording this achievement is now hanging in the ringing chamber.
Belfry Notes - from the September 2015 magazine
On Sunday 16th of August 2015 a quarter peal of Kent Treble Minor containing 1320 changes was rung by the following:
1 Peter Ford
2 Abi Fairhurst
3 Ann Steed *
4 Clyde Whittaker **
5 Mike Todd **
6 Rex Woodland **
Conducted by Ann Steed
* 1st in the method as conductor ** 1st Quarter in the method
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of VJ day, and also to celebrate the birthdays of Rosemary Henderson, Mike Todd, Rex Woodland, Peter Ford, and Julian Steed, falling around this date.
Belfry Notes - from the August 2015 magazine
On Sunday 29th June an extent of Kent Treble Bob Minor containing 720 changes was rung by:
1 Peter Ford
2 Rosemary Henderson
3 Ann Steed
4 Clyde Whittaker
5 Mike Todd
6 Rex Woodland
Conducted by Ann Steed
Rung as a farewell to Kuhan Satkunanayagam, who is leaving Leatherhead for Long Ditton, [where he is to be Rector] and also as a compliment to Rosemary Henderson on her birthday.
Belfry Notes - from the July 2015 magazine
On Sunday 24th May for Pentecost a 1/4 peal of Plain Bob Triples with 1260 changes was rung by the following:
1 Julian Steed *
2 Ann Steed (conducting)
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Abi Fairhurst
5 John Aronson
6 Rex Woodland
7 Roger Thompsett
8 Peter Ford
* 1st 1/4 peal in Triples
Notes from The Belfry - from the June 2015 magazine
A successful "Open day" on Saturday 9th of May was held when a lot of people visited the tower, had a "go" at ringing, and tried hand bell ringing with the help of friends from local towers. To celebrate, we rang a quarter peal on Sunday 10th as detailed below:
A quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles consisting of 1260 changes was rung by the following:
1 Margaret Beams *
2 Rosemary Henderson
3 Ann Steed (Conductor)
4 Mike Todd
5 Rex Woodland
6 Peter Ford
This was rung to mark:
* 1st 1/4 peal on the treble
* 1st birthday of Margaret's 1st Great-grandchild
70th anniversary of VE day.
Peter FordBelfry Notes - from the March 2015 magazine
A Peal was Rung at Leatherhead in memory of Anne Parr
on Saturday, 24 January 2015 in 2h55 (19-0-12)
Guildford Diocesan Guild, Leatherhead, Surrey
SS Mary and Nicholas
5000 Kent Treble Bob Royal
Composed by D.F. Morrison (no. 1035)
1 John R Aronson
2 Ann L Steed
3 Anne M Anthony
4 Brenda Parr
5 K Roger Tompsett
6 Michael J Todd
7 J Richard Anthony
8 Nicholas J Parr
9 Richard M Trueman
10P Quentin Armitage (C)
Rung in affectionate memory of Anne Parr, originally a ringer from Kent, and a dedicated ringer at this tower for more than 50 years, and to mark what would have been her 80th birthday. The peal band, with Anne Parr's son holding a photo of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Anne commencing ringing at Leatherhead
More Belfry Notes - from the March 2015 magazine
On Sunday 1st of February a quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles was rung in affectionate memory of Anne Parr and also to mark the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I, by the following:
1 Molly Lewis *
2 Rosemary Henderson
3 Ann Steed
4 Peter Ford
5 Mike Todd
6 Sheila Cole **
Conducted by Ann Steed
* First Quarter in Doubles
** First Quarter on the "Tenor"
Belfry Notes - from the February 2015 magazine
On Sunday 11th January a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples with 1260 changes was rung with respect for the people killed recently in France.
The ringers were:
1 Christine Collins
2 Ann Steed
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Mike Todd
5 Peter Ford
6 John Verity
7 Rex Woodland
8 Clyde Whittaker
Conducted by Ann Steed
Peter FordNews from the Belfry - from the December 2014 magazine
On Armistice Day 11th November a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1260 changes was rung with the bells half muffled in affectionate memory of Anne Parr, a dedicated ringer in this church for over 50 years, and our good friend.
The ringers were:
1 Jenny Gordon
2 Ann Steed
3 John Aronson
4 Roger Thompsett
5 Peter Ford
6 Rex Woodland
7 Mike Todd
8 Julian Steed
Conducted by Ann Steed.
Notes from the Belfry - from the November 2014 magazine
To mark Sheila Ford’s 80th birthday & 30 years' service as Verger in Leatherhead, 965 changes of Grandsire Triples was rung on 12th October by the following:
1 Rosemary Hall (Sheila's granddaughter)
2 Mike Todd
3 Peter Ford (Sheila's husband)
4 Emily Hall (Sheila's granddaughter)
5 Susan Hall (Sheila's daughter)
6 Rex Woodland
7 Mike Bale (conductor)
8 Andrew Hall (Sheila's son- in -law)
Bellringers' Outing - from the November 2014 magazine
On Saturday 27th of September a fleet of cars left Leatherhead (or nearby) to journey East for our outing. This was to follow the River Stour valley from Ashford to Canterbury.
The first Church was SS Gregory & Martin at Wye, so after a welcome cup of coffee at the King's Head we rang the 10 bells (a similar weight to our own bells) and "went very well".
St Lawrence at Godmersham was the next stop with 6 bells. A ground floor ring (no stairs to climb).
Chilham was our next port of call, a pretty village where we rang on their 8 bells. Down the road, the Woolpack Inn served a good (and very filling) lunch. The weather was fine, and we were lucky, as a guided tour of Chilham Castle gardens was booked, and proved to be most interesting.
St Mary's Church in Chartham followed where the 6 bells were soon ringing.
Then on to Canterbury, where in the small ringing chamber of St Dunstan's Church congestion was eased by climbing through a window on to the church roof! This ring of 6 bells was the last visit of the day.
A most enjoyable (though tiring) day. I know that all who came on this day out will join me in thanking Julian Steed for a well organised trip.Notes from the Belfry - from the October 2014 magazine
He even booked fine, (but not hot) weather.
On Sunday 24th August a 1/4 peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung by the following:Notes from the Belfry - from the August 2014 magazine
1 Anne E Parr
2 Anne Steed
3 Jenny Gordon*
4 Abigail C Fairhurst
5 Peter Ford
6 K Roger Thompsett
7 Mike Todd
8 Julian Steed**
Conducted by Ann Steed
* 1st Quarter peal in this method ** 1st Quarter peal on Tenor on 8 bells
Rung to celebrate the arrival of Noah, 1st great grandchild of Margaret Beams.
On Sunday 22nd June 2014 a Quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1260 changes was rung in 48 minutes by the following:
1 Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Abigail C Fairhurst
5 John Verity
6 Peter Ford
7 Mike Todd
8 Stuart Butler (1st 1/4 peal on 8)
Conducted by Anne Steed Congratulations to Stuart
More from the Belfry - from the August 2014 magazine
A well struck touch of 168 changes of Plain Bob Triples was rung on Sunday 6th July in honour of Tim Lewis, to wish him a speedy recovery following a serious operation.
The treble bell was rung by his mother, Molly Lewis, who was ringing her first complete touch of Plain Bob Triples.
Notes from the Belfry - from the June 2014 magazine
On Wednesday 23rd April a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor consisting of 1260 changes was rung for St George's day, and to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.
1 Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Mike Todd
5 Peter Ford
6 John Verity
Conducted by Ann Steed
Notes from the Belfry - from the May 2014 magazine
On Sunday 23rd March a 1/4 peal of Plain Bob Triples containing 1260 changes was rung by the following:-
1 Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed **
3 Clyde Whittaker
4 Rosemary Henderson
5 Peter Ford
6 Rex Woodland
7 Mike Todd
8 John Verity
* 1st 1/4 in the method **1st as conductor
Rung to mark the 5th Birthday of Megan, granddaughter of Rosemary Henderson.
Belfry Notes – Yet Another 1/4 Peal! from the April 2014 magazine
On Sunday 9th March a 1/4 peal of Grandsire Doubles consisting of 1260 changes was successfully rung by the following:
1 Anne Parr
2 Jenny Gordon
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Peter Ford
5 Mike Todd
6 Stuart Butler
Conducted by Mike Todd Rung to mark the 1st Sunday in Lent.
News from the Belfry - from the March 2014 magazine
Anne Parr with her husband David moved to Fetcham some 50 years ago, and joined the Leatherhead ringers. Anne is still a faithful member of the Leatherhead band. To mark the occasion a 1/4 peal of Grandsire Triples, containing 1260 changes, was rung on Sunday 26th January by the following:
1 Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed
3 Jenny Gordon
4 Rosemary Henderson
5 Mike Todd
6 Peter Ford
7 Roger Thompsett
8 Rex Woodland
Conducted by Ann Steed
WELL DONE ANNE - KEEP RINGING!
More News from the Belfry - from the March 2014 magazine
On Sunday 2 February 2014 a Quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1260 changes was rung to celebrate Candlemas, and to mark the 365th anniversary of the execution of King Charles I.
The ringers were:
1 Sheila Cole #
2 Ann Steed
3 Jenny Gordon
4 Rosemary Henderson
5 Mike Todd
6 Rex Woodland
7 Peter Ford
8 Clyde Whittaker
Conducted by Ann Steed
#1st 1/4 on triples – well done, Sheila.
Belfry Notes - from the January 2014 magazine
On Sunday 1st of December, a quarter peal of Plain Bob Doubles containing 1320 changes was rung by:
1 Julian Steed #
2 Ann Steed
3 Mike Todd
4 John Aronson
5 Rex Woodland
6 Peter Ford
Rung for Advent Sunday. Conducted by Ann Steed
# First quarter on the treble.
Notes from The Belfry - from the December 2013 magazine
On Sunday 27th October, a 1/4 peal of Grandsire Doubles, consisting of 1260 changes was rung by the following:
Treble Sheila Cole*
2 Ann Steed
3 Peter Ford
4 Roger Thompsett
5 Mike Todd**
Tenor John Aronson
* First 1/4 of Doubles
** First 1/4 as conductor
Congratulations to Sheila and Mike.
Celebration of Peter Ford's 50 Years Ringing at Leatherhead Parish Church - from the October 2013 magazine
On Sunday 1st September Peter Ford made an appeal at the end of the 10.30am service for anyone interested in learning to ring to give it a try. He was greatly surprised by the Rector not only thanking him for his 50 years of loyal service, but presenting him with a bell inscribed with his name and this achievement.
Peter Ford with the inscribed bell presented to him by the Rector
In the evening a Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples was rung in his honour by Anne Parr, Ann Steed who very ably conducted it, Rosemary Henderson, Roger Tompsett, Peter Ford, Mike Todd, Rex Woodland, and Clyde Whittaker.Belated News from the Belfry – A First for Margaret!!!! - from the October 2013 magazine
On Sunday 19th May another quarter was achieved in our tower by some of our own band (only 6 members involved). The ringers were:
Treble Anne Parr
2 John Aronson
3 Mike Todd
4 Rex Woodland
5 Ann Steed (conductor)
6 Margaret Beams
The method was Grandsire Doubles 1260 changes. Many congratulations to Margaret Beams, who rang tenor, on achieving her first quarter peal.
Leatherhead Tower Outing To Oxford, 2013 - from the July 2013 magazine
Those of us who had enjoyed the Epsom St Martin’s tower outing “Up the Northern Line” had experienced Clyde’s extremely detailed itinerary and planning; the Leatherhead tower outing to Oxford was to be no exception and we received our joining instructions with some trepidation: seven towers and a 31 hundredweight tenor to contend with! We obviously needed additional support and, fortunately for us, this was forthcoming from friends in Hampstead, Epsom, and Stoke D’Abernon. Oxford ringers, Michelle and Paul, also guided us around the City, and their local knowledge and enthusiasm was a great asset to us all.
A total of nineteen ringers assembled at our first tower long before the heat of the day and the crowds of tourists became oppressive. Then it was a whirlwind of rich architecture, historic streets, and occasional glimpses of almost familiar quadrangles as we had to remind ourselves we were here to ring bells! St Aldates were deceptively heavy for an 11 cwt Tenor but ran well – its revivalist outlook to worship ensures crowded services three times a day, every day! St Mary Magdalen offered a lightweight ring of ten which could be rung quickly – Jenny was very happy here! We became a little more adventurous at Lincoln College with Grandsire and Stedman Triples, some of which came round – perhaps we were ready for a lunch break.
After The Chequers we continued along the High Street in soaring temperatures to Magdalen College which, for most of us, proved to be the highlight of the day. Recently rehung, the bells sounded absolutely glorious and sonorous as we all concentrated to give our best striking. These bells will remain with us! Christ Church Cathedral was approached across the cooling meadows, catching a brief glimpse of the punts galore on the crowded river: the tourists were out in force by now and we had to be careful not to join the wrong party! Here it was brought home to us just how privileged we were in being able to by-pass the long queues – the Proctors’ Officers even tipped their bowler hats at the mention of Bellringers. Time allowed us only a brief tour of the Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Oxford, before tackling the part wooden framed tower structure. Jenny deserves special mention and credit for her handling of the aforementioned 31 cwt tenor!
We were tiring, and some disappeared for refreshment, but we persevered. Ann’s careful placement of ringers at St Thomas paid off with some quite reasonable method ringing before our final tower at Carfax. We had been coursing the Basingstoke band all day and we finally met them here. It was reassuring to note that they looked equally exhausted! Members of the public can climb to the top of the tower, except when ringing is in progress, so again we were privileged to take in the spectacular view of the city with our own personal guide – thank you, Paul. And the air was so refreshing!
So, were we tired, yes! but pleasantly so as we looked back on a very successful day. It was interesting to note that at least one ringer was planning to return to the City shortly to take in the sights at a more leisurely pace – without ringing!
Thanks are due to the many people who arranged the towers and provided support – you know who you are!
More News from The Belfry - from the March 2013 magazine
It is a little while since we gave you an update from the Belfry – as I expect you all realise, over the Christmas and New Year period we were VERY busy!
On Sunday30th December another quarter peal: 1260 Changes of Grandsire Triples.
The band consisted of:
Treble Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed
3 Jenny Gordon
4 Rosemary Henderson
5 Mike Todd
6 Rex Woodland
7 Peter Ford
8 Peter Moyle
Conducted by Ann Steed
On 2nd February we had our Annual District Meeting. This started at 3pm with Ringing, followed by a Service which Graham led, then Tea followed by the Annual Meeting and more ringing. Everyone who goes up the tower gets the opportunity to ring: ranging from fairly simple for learners, to complicated methods for the very experienced. So I do hope you enjoyed the variety.
We practise on Tuesday evenings, and any visitors are welcome to see what goes on and have a go if you like ... we don't bite.
Until the next news, hope to see some new people in the tower.
from the October 2012 magazine - News from The Belfry
Busy Busy! The Tenor clapper has been repaired and replaced ... doesn't it sound good? We think it has a mellow tone ... until the paint wears off! The foundry has records that it has lasted 80 years so not bad going.
A Quarter Peal was achieved on 26th August as follows:
1 Anne Parr
2 Ann Steed (Conductor)
3 Rosemary Henderson
4 Mike Todd
5 Peter Ford
6 John Aronson
This was a 75th Birthday compliment to Margaret Beams, Rex Woodland and Peter Ford.
On 29th August we rang between 7pm and 8pm to welcome the Paralympics 2012. Hope you all listened and enjoyed!
On 1st September we earned our own Bronze in the Striking competition! Hope you all carry on listening.
from the August 2012 magazine - News from the Belfry
All belfries were asked to ring in the 2012 Olympics on 27th July at 08.12 so I hope you all listened to our bells being rung at that time: what a lovely start to the day and the Olympics!!
The “Swan” Handbells ringing out in front of the Parish Hall
on the morning of the opening of the Olympic Games.
We were very keen to ring for the two Cycle Races going past our lovely Church on the weekend of 28th and 29th July, particularly as bellringing is VERY English!!! With a little help from our friends from local towers we started ringing at about 2 o’clock (a bit before the cyclists were expected). So we were doing our best just before the cyclists arrived in Leatherhead at about 2.45pm. When a huge crash sounded above us we stopped ringing and it was discovered that the tenor clapper had sheared off.
Fortunately there was no damage to the other bells – but what a disappointment that we had no tenor to ring!! Only 9 bells so we rang those as best we could. Undaunted we rang again on Sunday both for the Church service and the Ladies race.
The saga continues as we get the clapper fixed. However, as it is very old it will probably be better to replace it. We will keep you up to date on progress. So we have rung for the Golden Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics this year so far!!!
from the August 2012 magazine - Appeal of Bells
On Friday 27 July the Leatherhead Parish Church Bellringers joined celebrations throughout the UK in Martin Creed’s “All the Bells” to herald the start of the Olympics in London and, in particular, to welcome visitors to the Leatherhead area for the Road Cycle Race.
Unfortunately the tenor bell was slightly less enthusiastic than the campanologists and the clapper couldn’t withstand the excitement of the weekend. The Friends of the Parish Church stepped into the breach three years ago to pay for new bearings and headstocks and will be pleased this time to be able to fund the cost of repairing the shaft of the tenor bell. Thank you to all those who support us and contribute to the Friends’ funds; your generosity has enabled us to come to the rescue.
from the July 2012 magazine - More News From The Belfry
We hope you all enjoyed the ringing for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. At 3pm on the 3 June 2012, we joined with all the bells throughout the country to celebrate this event. We are now to ring a quarter peal for to commemorate this year of both the Jubilee and the Olympics.
So that we are ready and proficient for this we will be ringing from 5.30 – 6.30 pm each Sunday evening up to the event – we hope that enjoy hearing the bells ringing acoss the valley on Sunday evenings. More News on the quarter peal – so watch this space!from the June 2012 magazine - More News from the Belfry
Since my last news we have had our Annual Dinner in the Blue Cafe: about 20 of us (including spouses) enjoyed a meal in Holy Week, when it is customary for the Bells not to be rung from Palm Sunday until Easter morning.
We had our outing on April 21st to Buckinghamshire. Our first tower was Whitchurch which has 6 bells (tenor 8cwt); then we went on to North Marston, again 6 bells (tenor 13cwt); then on to Quainton where it was 8 bells (tenor 17cwt). These were all ground floor rings. It was then time for lunch. We went to "The Long Dog", Waddesdon, where Mary Cruddas joined us. This is the pub we ate at Mary’s Induction, though its name has changed. We then rang the bells at Waddesdon (Mary's church): these are 6 bells (tenor 12cwt) BUT made of STEEL!! We then went to the Rectory for a cup of tea and lots of chat!! Mary sends her love to everyone. Tony has retired, and she now has a black Labrador puppy.
from the January 2012 magazine - Another message from the Belfry
Recently we told you about our wonderfull new boxes (these are used to stand on when ropes or people are too short). Made and carved and stained by members of the team. We now have new carpet - a beautiful blue - in the tower and up the stairs all paid for by the bellringers.
Come up and see our new look Belfry. Why not try out ringing for yourself? I hope you all enjoyed listening to the 10 bells being rung on Remembrance Sunday half muffled. A really lovely sound.
(Royal) Wedding Bells - from the June 2011 magazine
To celebrate the wedding of HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton on Friday 29 April all ten bells were rung on the Saturday morning. Also on Sunday 1 May a quarter peal of Grandsire Caters containing 1260 changes was rung by the following: 1 Rosemary Henderson, 2 Margaret Bale, 3 Ann Steed, 4 Mike Todd, 5 Abigail Fairhurst, 6 Peter Ford, 7 Mike Bale, 8 Rex Woodland. Conducted by Mike Bale.
These two photographs show four nesting boxes for the use of those who are “vertically challenged” to stand on whilst ringing. We thank John Swanson who made them and Mike Bale who varnished them – the lines on the boxes indicate the courses of the methods carved:
St Mary and St Nicholas is the dedication of the Parish Church. All Saints is the dedication of the daughter church in Leatherhead.
Bellringers' outing 2010 - from the Nov 2010 magazine
Saturday 18 September was an ideal day for the annual bellringers' outing – the weather turned out to be bright and sunny without being too warm for our visit to churches around Chichester.
Leaving home about 8am we met at the first church at 9.30: St John the Baptist, Westbourne – the eight bells were soon sounding over the village.
The next was Holy Trinity, Bosham, which has six bells – a most interesting church with its connection with the Bayeux Tapestry. After Bosham, lunch at the Crown & Anchor, Apuldram, proved to be a good choice (most of us having fish and chips) with views over the Chichester Channel.
Aldwick was the next port of call – a light ring of eight bells, the tenor weighing 7314 cwt. Then Pagham welcomed us, the ringing chamber open to the nave. Afterwards we enjoyed a two hour trip on the Chichester Canal, watching wildfowl, whilst being served with cream teas.
The last ring of the day was at Chichester Cathedral with its detached bell tower. Some of our ringers found the long draft daunting (long ropes without guides); also over 80 stairs to climb. Most of us went on to St Paul's – a deconsecrated church, now a pub! A most enjoyable day well organised by Ann and Julian Steed – we thank them for all their hard work.
For Pentecost - from the July 2009 magazine
On Sunday 31 May 2009, Pentecost, a quarter peal of Stedman triples containing 1260 changes was rung by: 1 - Rosemary Henderson; 2 - Linda Armitage; 3 - Ron Diserens; 4 - Peter Ford; 5 - Rex Woodland; 6 - Quentin Armitage; 7 - Richard Truman; 8 - John Aronson. Conducted by Quentin Armitage.
The bells are ringing - from the July 2008 magazine
A big thank you to all who kindly donated towards the refurbishment of our bells, which you may have noticed are now ringing again. We received grants from two ringing guilds that cover the area and also from the Sharp Trust. We can now say we have done our bit to ensure the Leatherhead bells are in a good state to ring over the town for many more years to come, as they have been since the 18th century.
Peter Ford, Tower Captain
The bells are back in action - June 2008
The bells are back in action and it is hoped that an account of the refurbishment work will appear here in due course.
Two documents provided by John Swanson may be of interest to those interested in ringing at Leatherhead are provided below (both are in pdf format for which Acrobat™ Reader is required):
- Leatherhead Ringing is a sheet of useful information compiled for visiting ringers - people organising outings and the like - to save having to tell each person all the info individually.
- Bell schedule is something we've done following the refurbishment. The top three quarters is a reproduction of the handwritten schedule of the bells Whitechapel Bell Foundry produced in 1924 - as faithful a reproduction as possible using available fonts. We've then added (in a consistent style) at the bottom a bit more of the history and the more recent work.
Why aren't the bells ringing? - from the January 2008 Parish Magazine
The sound of bells ringing before Sunday services is a part of our cherished heritage; when no bells are heard, people ask why? Our bells will be silent for 12 weeks next year whilst a company of bell-hanging engineers renovate the fittings. The last time all the bell fittings, bearings etc. were seen by professional engineers was in 1923! The work will start on January 21.
As this is going to cost a lot of money we have applied for grants from various trusts, but more will be needed. If you would like to help, please use the yellow envelopes in church, write BELLS on the front so that we can reclaim VAT, and put it into the blue box. If you have any questions contact me on L373629.
Peter Ford, Tower Captain
From Peter Ford - Happy Birthday! from the October 2007 magazine
To mark my 70th birthday a quarter peal containing 1280 changes of Plain Bob Major was arranged and successfully rung, conducted by Mike Bale, onWednesday August 22 by: 1. John Aronson; 2. Anne Parr; 3. Rosemary Henderson; 4. Roger Tompsett; 5. Rex Woodland; 6. Peter Ford; 7. Mike Ashton; 8. Mike Bale.
My thanks to the ringers for arranging the quarter peal and to all who have wished me well on reaching three score years and ten. I have now completed 44 years ringing at St Mary and St Nicholas.
I am sure we would all also like to add our good wishes to Peter. Editor
Congratulations! - from the July 2007 magazine
Members of the congregation joined Mike and Molly Lewis with Pat and Eric Weetman to celebrate their Golden Weddings on June 3 2007 when an extended touch of Grandsire Triples, containing 1200 changes, was rung to congratulate them by 1 Margaret Bale, 2 Anne Parr, 3 Rosemary Henderson, 4 Ann Steed, 5 Roger Thompsett, 6 Peter Ford, 7 Mike Bale, 8 John Aronson conducted by Mike Bale.
Bell Ringers' Outing - from the Nov 2006 magazine
Saturday 30th September dawned with heavy rain when 24 people set out to meet at St Mary's Parish Church, Petworth, by 9 o'clock. St Mary's has a fine ring of eight bells, the heaviest, the tenor bell, at 18cwt. We were blessed by the sun appearing to welcome us. Kirdford, a pretty village, was our second stop. The church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, has a ring of six bells with a 14cwt tenor.
Owing to the water being so low, the plan then to go on a boat trip along the River Arun was abandoned. Instead we visited Billingshurst where there are eight bells, 14½ cwt tenor. The Three Crowns in Wisborough Green welcomed us for lunch, then to the church a short walk away, where, as we rang from the ground floor, there were no steps to climb.
We moved on to Pulborough with eight bells, 13¾ cwt tenor. We all appreciated these bells, which have recently been re-hung.
The last tower of the day was Arundel, with eight bells, 13¾ cwt tenor. This is an interesting church because the east end is the Roman Catholic chapel of the castle, while the crossing and the west end form the Church of England parish church, the two being separated by a glass screen. Then home, having had a most enjoyable day well organised by Ann Steed - many thanks, Ann.
We were all pleased to welcome three young learners from Leatherhead, Lucy Morris, Rebecca Price and Rebecca Swanson, who joined us for the first time.
Bellringers' Outing - from the November 2005 Parish magazine
Saturday 24th September 2005 proved to be a fine, sunny day as a fleet of cars arrived at the village of Withyham, near Tunbridge Wells, for the first ring of the day. It is a beautiful church and was in preparation for Harvest Festival the next day. The bells, eight in number, with a tenor of 15cwt. "went" very well, sounding good.
Frant was the next port of call, with six bells having an 8cwt. Tenor. It was an interesting ring in a quaint village. We took lunch at the Green Cross Inn in Goudhurst; the food was much appreciated, the service was excellent and the beer very nice!
Then on to Goudhurst parish church, but as the village is popular it took time to reach it. We found the bells very heavy to ring with the tenor being 1½ tons.
Lamberhurst Vineyard welcomed us for an informative talk about wine with, of course, wine tasting. Many of the group found the rabbits and chickens in the children's comer equally fascinating!
St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst proved to be the best ring of the afternoon and almost as good as the first tower. It has eight bells with a 12cwt. Tenor. The last stop of the day was at St Denys' at Rotherfield, again eight bells but a 23cwt Tenor. This many of our group found challenging, not an easy ring with long unguided ropes, making us appreciate our home tower here in Leatherhead. We had an excellent day with perfect weather and great company. We thank Ann Steed for all her hard work in arranging the outing.
From Belfry Records - from the June 2005 parish magazine
For Whit Sunday, 15th May, a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples was rung by:
1 Anne Parr, 2 Ann Steed, 3 Rosemary Henderson (first quarter peal), 4 John Swanson (first quarter pea!), 5 John Aronson, 6 Peter Ford, 7 Michael Bale, and 8 Rex Woodland, conducted by Michael Bale.
On Time - from the June 2005 parish magazine
Not a lot of people know this, but the church clock does not wind itself up! It is hand wound on a weekly basis and we owe Peter Ford a debt of gratitude in recent years for undertaking this task. With Peter I have been investigating having the winding done electrically. We consulted the Diocesan Advisor, Derek Frampton. The outcome was that to electrify the winding could cost up to £6,000; because it makes the whole thing more complicated there is more to go wrong and spares can be a problem; and an annual maintenance contract is needed with the installer.
Having discussed this with Peter and the Churchwardens, we came to the conclusion that it would be the better and cheaper option to continue to wind by hand if at all possible. In the light of this I am very grateful to our team of Bell Ringers for being willing to share the responsibility for doing so. The PCC will pay a small honorarium to the Ringers Fund for their willingness to help. We are extremely fortunate to have a dedicated and able ringing team - often unseen but very faithful in ringing before services.
I am also grateful to a number of people who indicated their willingness to donate towards electrification. I hope you will agree that to continue to wind by hand is the better outcome but thank you for your support. David Eaton
From the Belfry Records - from the May 2005 parish magazine
On Saturday 12th March, a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1274 changes was rung to celebrate the baptism of Catherine Lucy Ford at St Mary's Parish Church, Fetcham, on Sunday 13th March. Treble - Ann Steed, 2 - Anne Parr, 3 - Peter Ford, 4 - Peter Ostley, 5 - Susan Hall, 6 - Roger Tompsett, 7 - Michael Bale 8 - Andrew Hall.
Catherine Lucy is the granddaughter of Peter Ford and the niece of Susan and Andrew Hall.
To mark the appointment of our Vicar, David Eaton, as an Honorary Canon of Guildford Cathedral, Bill Herbert conducted a quarter peal of Plain Bob Major containing 1264 changes rung on 13th October by Caroline Rendall-treble, Ann Steed-2, Anne Parr-3, Mark Hobson-4, Andy Ellis-5, Rex Woodland-6, Peter Ford-7 and Bill Herbert-tenor.
Bells for HM Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee 2002
On Tuesday 4th June 2002 some 14 ringers gathered to ring our bells to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Then on Sunday 9th June to mark the Jubilee a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples containing 1260 changes was rung by: 1 Caroline Rendall, 2 Roger Tompsett, 3 Anne Parr, 4 Ann Steed, 5 Peter Ostley, 6 Peter Ford, 7 Rex Woodland and 8 John Christmas. Ann Steed conducted.
A Decorative Dinner Bell - from the November 2001 Parish Magazine
When the Church bells were being rehung with new fittings in 1923 the ninth was found to be cracked. It was recast in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry at the expense of Mr Herbert Reeves who lived at the Mansion House (he was a great benefactor of the Church - hence the Reeves Room).
A small decorative dinner bell, cast from the excess metal left over from the recasting, was presented to the Tower Captain, Mr Arthur Dean, who lived in Church Walk.
Recently this dinner bell was given to Leatherhead Museum by Arthur Dean's granddaughter, Mrs Weller from Horsham. The bell, pictured here, is on loan to the Parish Church.
The inscription on the bell reads: From Leatherhead 9th bell, 1924
Wedding Bells 2001
To mark the wedding of Kenneth Ford and Deborah Dawson on 6th October 2001, a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples (1260 changes) was rung on Friday 5th October by:- Helen Green (Treble), Caroline Randall (2), Anne Parr (3), Peter Ford (the Groom's father (4)), Susan Hall (the Groom's sister (5)), Rex Woodland (6), Anthony Gordon (Conductor and 7) and Andrew Hall (Tenor).
From a Stewardship Booklet 1960
Parish Church: 'Bellringers take a breather. Messrs George Marriner and Alfred Winch (extreme right)
have both rung for over 50 years at Leatherhead'.
Others shown are, L-R: Hilda Oatway - Rev Eric Wood, curate at All Saints' - Alan Smith
4 - Bill Oatway - Sue Bell (now Billett) - Roy Davies - Catherine Powell (now Lewis)
IDs by the Millwards, Anne Thomson, Alan Smith
[original photo: Derek Gardner]
Bellringing at the Parish Church
last updated 6 Nov 16