The 2001 Summer Meeting of the Guild of Medical Ringers was held in and around Shrewsbury on Saturday 19th May. Despite the difficulties of some very late substitutions of towers as a result of the foot and mouth crisis, an excellent weekend’s ringing was organised by Nick Green. At that stage Nick was not even a member of the Guild, although he is an experienced ringing pathologist, but later in the day we warmly welcomed him to our membership.
The venue drew a record number of members. At times this made space in the ringing chambers tight, and the availability of opportunities to catch hold was limited, but despite this, the feedback appeared to be extremely favourable.
Some members travelled up on the Friday night, arriving in time for ringing on the easy going, light ring of 8 at Holy Trinity, Meole Brace on the edge of Shrewsbury. This church is famed for its stained glass, said to be some of the best designed by William Morris and Burne-Jones. Ringing here was thirsty work, and some members required liquid refreshment before retiring for the night.
Saturday was overcast, but dry. Ringing began at the 6 of St James, Cardington, which were augmented from a four to a six in the last decade. It was a very welcoming, well used church, with a beautiful Millennium Ceramic relief of scenes of the village. Next stop was the 6 of St Peter, Rushbury, and then onto the 8 of St. Lawrence, Church Stretton at the foot of the Long Mynd.
Lunch was next in order. There was stunning scenery all around, but the full force of the effects of the foot and mouth crisis was evident, and finding an appropriate spot for a picnic was not going to be an easy exercise. Therefore most people travelled on to the market town of Ludlow, where there was a good range of cafes and restaurants.
With everyone refreshed and rejuvenated, the afternoon’s ringing began on the 8 of St. Lawrence, Ludlow. This is the largest church in Shropshire and one of Simon Jenkins’ eighteen ‘5 star’ churches in the country. It is a healthy climb to the belfry, and there is a glassed-over hole in the floor, with a view into the church below. It is not a place for people without a head for heights. The tower, which is’ 135ft tall, suffers with tower movement, and this made the climb to the roof to view the surrounding countryside an interesting experience.
Our next stop was the Fire Ring of Hopton Heath, a private ring owned by John Tumey and Jan Henriety. The 8 bells have a tenor weighing just 2st 9lbs, and the ropes have home made sallies. It was a great learning experience, but we did have several bands, experienced enough to handle them for methods, including St. Clements, which was our special method for the day. Some of us were perhaps more at home on the simulator and six dumb-bells in the neighbouring barn.
The last tower of the day was the 6 of St. Cuthbert, Clungunford, which was augmented to 5 in 1996, and 6 in 1997.
After the ringing we returned to Shrewsbury where we had taken over the Abbotts Mead Hotel, and this was bursting at the seams, when 47 adults and 5 children sat for dinner. We wt;re told by the owners that earlier this year the dining room had been deep in water when the River Severn had burst its banks, so coping with a flood of people was a challenge which all of the staff coped with very well. After our dinner a very short business meeting was held, at which several new members were elected before our traditional hand bell ringing began in earnest with no-one else in the hotel to annoy.
Some members had to return home that evening, but for others, Sunday began after a late breakfast, with service ringing on the fine 14 of St. Chad Shrewsbury. This was followed by the 10 of St. Mary Shrewsbury, a fine, redundant church, and much praised by the Churches Preservation Trust. Much of the glass is 16th century continental, installed in 1845. The stone spire is one of the three tallest in England, being 138ft on an 84ft tower.
The final tower of the morning was another redundant church: the six of St. Andrew Wroxeter. The churchyard gateposts are Roman columns from nearby Virconium, the fourth Roman city in the British Isles.
This culminated an excellent summer weekend’s ringing. Despite the stresses and strains within the National Health Service, Medical Ringing is in fine health.