The year 2016 has been a momentous one for H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. On 6th February we celebrated her accession (at the age of 25y,10m), and on 21st April we joined celebrations as she became the first European monarch to reach the age of 90. On 9th September she had reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes and on waking, she set a new record by passing the longevity set by the reign of Queen Victoria. She had already reigned longer than Henry III (56y), George III (59y) and King Louis XIV of France (72y). I notified Buckingham Palace of our contributions to the celebrations. Her Majesty very graciously dictated a letter, mentioning in particular the participation by Daniel, William and Susanne.
The activities during 2016 should have been dominated by the Central Council of Church Bellringers. This organisation, consisting of 2, 3 or 4 elected members of every bell ringing Guild or Society, meets yearly to discuss, arbitrate or invent the variety of ways we can sound bells. Meeting usually on the late Spring Holiday, in 2016 it was the turn of our Guild to host this event. It had met here before, in the years 1914, 1947 and 1980. This time it was the turn of the Portsmouth District to play host. Several of us purchased the 2016 Calendar, which featured our two Cathedrals and twelve Hampshire village churches. Four of our members have converted from Probationary to full membership of “The Winchester and Portsmouth Guild of Church Bell Ringers”, namely William, Daniel and Phil and Josh.
“Challenge 500” ran from 8th September to Sunday 11th, This was to encourage those who are responsible for historic buildings and their associated activities to be on show to the general public. This year bell ringing had a particular challenge from the Central Council; 500 belfries were to be opened, with displays of ringing etc. Only one other band in this district made any effort. Our handbell team provided a good afternoon’s entertainment for our visitors, most of them accepting our challenge to “have a go”. We were also the only band to enter two teams in the Guild’s first ever “pub quiz”, held at “The Happy Cheese” on 26th November. Alas we were beaten into second place by the team from Hursley. On December 23rd our handbell team gave a 30 minute performance on the Jazz stage of the “King Rufus”, Eling, in front of many Eling villagers. For this we were awarded one of the “Challenge 500” certificates by the National Handbell Ringers of Great Britain,
Our thanks to Steve for again organising a one day ringing outing, this year, on 29th October to Damerham, Martin, Broad Chalke, Britford, Kings Somborne, finishing with the brand new ring of 6 bells at Houghton. The District outing, on September 17, to …. Towers in Oxford was attended by several of our members
Last year there was a reduction in the number of weddings at St. Mary’s and consequently we had fewer requests for wedding bells. Derek and Ruth attended the wedding evening this year, on 7th February, prepared to stand before the young couples and give a short speech. Only six couples attended and Rev. Steed, at the last minute changed the ethos of the evening. Meanwhile our own Di and Dave Lawes celebrated their Silver Wedding on 31st August. We were delighted when Susanne announced her engagement to Paul, with their wedding planned in Derbyshire this spring, on 15th April. We send our best wishes, and have already presented them with a gift and card signed by all the band.
While we had received no requests for our bells to be used for peal attempts, there was still one outstanding, This was requested by Roy Le Marechal, tower captain of the Bishopstoke band, and leading ringer in the Guild. On Saturday 16th January his band took 2 hours and 55 minutes to ring 5028 different changes of Bristol Surprise Major spliced with Stedman Triples. This is so complicated it would puzzle most of the Eling band. However we have David amongst us who gathered us together, hired a room at Totton Community Centre and encouraged us to draw out “blue lines” of methods never heard of before or after. Keeping “our noses to the grindstone”, he persuaded the more experienced to learn the “blue line” of Lessness Surprise Major, and Eling may well be one amongst two or three other Hampshire towers where this method can be rung. Sunday Service ringing should be regarded as the reason for our existence, but firm determination is required to leave one’s bed early on a cold January Sunday. We still manage to “man” our eight bells at 0845 hours, mainly ringing Call-Changes, and then, encouraged by David, we have attempted London, Beverley, Surfleet, Norwich, Carlisle, Wells and Hull Surprise Minor. We thank him for his patience and understanding. On 2nd May we also marked the enthusiasm of the eight bell ringers who, in 1715, rang the first ever peal, at St. Peter Mancroft, in Norwich.
Due to the enthusiasm of Sallie Ingram, the District Secretary, meetings in the C. & S. District are now monthly and are dominated by gatherings for the Young Ringers group. The intention is to produce a team which can participate in the National 8 Bell, Junior, Striking Competition. Another regular event is a District gathering at Winchester Cathedral, thus enabling members, on 24th August, the opportunity to ring on one of only two rings of 14 bells in the World. Organised by Alan Elsmore we entered the Guild’s Six Bell Striking Competition on 21st May, at St. Mary’s, Eversley. Ringing Stedman Doubles, the team achieved Second Place. More recently (18th March), Steve entered two teams in the Hartless Shield Striking Competition, held at All Saints, Minstead. We were delighted when they returned with certificates for 1st and 2nd places. Phil Wilson insisted on showing them to the morning congregation and may even insist on a second presentation! Once again we are grateful to Polly’s husband, “Oz of Minstead”, for his calligraphy on our certificates.
On 23rd June we all marched to a polling booth to decide whether to remain joined to a Europe with only 3 rings of bells or become again the separate British Isles with 6998 rings of bells. The majority of us decided on the latter, and so the Central Council continues to make rules and decisions.
The Annual Tower Dinner was organised superbly by Ruth Jackson, our Tower Secretary, on 22nd March. As we departed the “Blue Hayes Restaurant” for the sixth time we had little foresight that it would soon close and have “for Sale” notices displayed in 2017. Rather fortunately, Ray and Philippa. had purchased one of the two, closed Village pubs, had opened it as the “King Rufus”, a private venture, and were prepared to host our Annual Belfry Meeting with wide ranging choices for our Dinner.
As always I must close by expressing my thanks. To Alan and Steve, who, as Deputy Captains, have maintained the ringing during my long absences caused by the replacement of my left knee on 28th September and then my right eye operation on 11th February. Alan and his team of Steeple Keepers have kept our bells in good order. Alas, Alan’s eye problems have terminated his driving of any car and also, he and John have experienced balance problems when working on the bell frame. We thank them, together with Steve and Adrian, for the hours in the high-up church tower. I have experienced first hand the amount of work required of our Secretary, and have been grateful that we have been together since the 1950s at Rye Grammar School. In 1952 we competed at St. Mary’s, Rye, to see who could first handle and ring for Service; not only did she beat me, but she later called my first quarter peal! On 19th March we listened outside St. Mary’s as you rang a splendid quarter peal of Grandsire Triples in her honour, taking 43 minutes to do so. During the following week 19 more ringing events were recorded while 51 birthday cards arrived with 8 bouquets of flowers. I think it was a big birthday!