2008 Summer Meeting

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The 2008 Summer Meeting of the Guild was held in and around Birmingham over the weekend of 16th to18th May.

A select band gathered on the Friday for afternoon ringing at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Studley, St Peter’s, Welford on Avon, St Peter’s, Wootton Waren and St John the Baptist, Henley in Arden. In the evening members were very pleased to be able to join the band at St Lawrence, Northfield for their practice and they were made very welcome.

Some members had stayed overnight but many more joined the weekend at 9.00pm on Saturday morning at St Mary, Mosley. St Mary’s has a unique set of eight steel bells cast by Naylor Vickers and Co in 1861. Originally they hung in St Marie’s Church, Sheffield and were moved to Mosley in 1874. We knew that they were described as an ‘interesting ring’ but we certainly got more than we had bargained for. We had been there only a short while and we were three quarters of the way through the first lead of Cambridge with Ken Lee our immediate past ringing master ringing the tenor. When there was a sudden almighty crash and the tenor went dead, we knew immediately that there was a serious problem but fortunately, the heavens did not open and the floor held. It soon became clear that the gudgeon pin had broken and the tenor bell had fallen from its frame. I think that in medical terms this could be considered a health and safety issue or more correctly as a ‘critical incident’. It was a lucky escape for us but not such a fortunate outcome for the tenor and its judgement day had come.  We regret that although we were aware that Mosley was considering a restoration this may certainly have hastened it. We truly hope however that some of the unique character of this steel eight can be retained, as variety in life is important, as is our heritage. Some of us subsequently had the opportunity to go up the tower and inspect the damage; a rather scary experience really.

Clearly we left Mosley saddened by these events. It was a dull damp day but it could certainly be said that we had had a cracking start to the day.

Our next tower of the morning was the pleasant 10 of St Nicholas King’s Norton. There was a coffee morning in the church and we were made very welcome as we revitalised ourselves. The last morning tower was St Peter, Harbourne. The tower here is quite small and a significant number of members had congregated at this stage so rather than stand out in the drizzle some members retired early for lunch at the nearby public house ‘The Bell’. Local folklore says that this is the only pub in consecrated ground. It was small but the food was very good and the staff very helpful but our numbers certainly stretched the resources. However, we were all served in time to restart the afternoon ringing.

The first tower of the afternoon was the lovely 8 of St Mary, Selly Oak and being refreshed we had some good ringing here. Our next tower was St Bartholomew, Egbaston Old Church. The bells here were recast and rehung by Taylors in 1927. They sound and ring well and form the home ring of the Birmingham University Society. Our final tower of the day was the 8 of Old Church, Smethwick. These are a delightful very light 8 at 7-1-1 and were cast in 1977.  They are accessed by a trap door and as the ringing chamber is small we had to have a shift system.

Ringing throughout the day was varied. The method of the day was Gainsborough Little Bob but we also rang Selly Oak and a range of more usual methods and rounds and call changes, so something for everyone.

Forty two of us sat for dinner at the Apollo Hotel in Birmingham. The meal was followed by a brief business meeting when we discussed possible arrangements for the November and May meeting. There was also a suggestion of Abingdon as a possible venue for the 2010 Summer Outing. There was then a thanks and presentation to Claire Calver and George Harrison for so ably organising the weekend’s ringing. The meeting closed in the customary manner with hand bell ringing. A few members left us at this point but many stayed another night at the hotel with more ringing organised for the following day.

Sunday was a little brighter and we were very privileged to be able to ring for the morning service on the wonderful 12 at Birmingham Cathedral. Whilst some people toured the nearby Cadbury’s chocolate factory buying large quantities of chocolate products from the factory shop, others rounded off the weekend with a quarter peal of Grandsire Caters at St Nicholas, King’s Norton. Thus ended another very interesting and enjoyable weekend.