The Guild of Medical Ringers held its summer meeting in and around Abingdon, Oxfordshire during the weekend of 14th-16th May. The special methods for the weekend were Double Oxford Bob Minor and Double Oxford Bob Major.
For a number of members the weekend began on the Friday around Otmoor close to junction 9 of the M40. The first tower of the afternoon was the 6 of St Giles Bletchingdon. Sir Christopher Wren lived in the village rectory in the 17th Century. The ring of 5 was restored and augmented in 1998. The next church was the 6 of Charlton on Otmoor. This was the site of the Otmoor riots in 1829/30, when an enclosure act led to the marshland being drained. The church is listed in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches. The 5 bells were augmented in 1998.
The final church of the afternoon was the 8 of St Nicholas, Islip. Islip is the birthplace of Edward the Confessor so this was an afternoon full of history. The bells were retuned and rehung in 1992.
There was a brief break to book into hotels and bed and breakfasts and to have some tea before ringing recommenced at 7.15 on the 12 of the Appleton Workshop Campanile. The ring of 10 bells originally hung in a farm outbuilding near Banbury. In 1978 they were removed and in 1996 White’s Bellhangers of Appleton hung them in their workshop. With the addition of two trebles and several semitones, there is now a ring of twelve (with blue in the sally), a lighter ten (with red in the sally) and a light 8 (with white in the sally) .White’s is the oldest bell hanging company in Britain and hung many of the bells that we visited over the weekend. Many thanks to Brian White for meeting us and showing us round the workshop. Following this we were grateful to the ringers of St Laurence Appleton for allowing us to join their practice night, followed by a welcome pint. The ring of 8 at St Laurence was augmented in 1871 when Rev F Robinson, curate at Appleton at the time, provided two extra bells to augment to 10 and the small turret was added to the top of the tower to accommodate them.
Refreshed, members were joined by reinforcements on the beautiful sunny Saturday morning at the 10 of St Helen’s Abingdon. St Helen’s church is supposed to be the widest parish church in England. The old ring of 10 was replaced by the very pleasant ring of 10, cast by Whitechapel using Gillett profiles in 2006. This was followed by the short walk to the 6 of St Nicholas, Abingdon which stands next to the Abbey Gardens overlooking the impressive town hall. The bells here were cast by Abel Rudhall in 1741. Here we rang both Oxford and the rival Cambridge.
Lunch was the next priority. We were too many to descend upon one venue so a number of pubs and restaurants were recommended in an around Abingdon. For some there was first a pleasant stroll around Abingdon or through the remains of the Abbey and lovely gardens leading down to the river.
Ringing recommenced at 2.45 in the beautiful village of Steventon with its ancient causeway. St Michael’s Steventon has a ring of 6 rung from the ground floor and the church is largely 14th Century. This was followed by the 6 cwt 8 of St Blaise, Milton. This is one of only four churches in the country dedicated to St Blaise, the patron saint of wool-combers and Milton was once a centre for the wool industry. The old ring of 6 were removed in 2002 and replaced with a new ring of 8 cast by Whitechapel, also to Gillett profiles. It was interesting here to see the peal board for a 5000 of Honey Delight Major to mark the 5000 peal for Colin Turner the first person ever recorded to have rung 5000 peals. The last tower of the afternoon was the eight of St Peter Drayton. Rev Robinson crops up here again as he was vicar of Drayton from 1878 to 1908 and also donated the money here for having the bells augmented from a 6-8 with the addition of a treble and a tenor. This was the tower where Andrew Young who had so ably organised this weekend tour had learnt to ring. Indeed his name was on one of the peal boards in 1978 in the first peal to ring on these bells by a local band.
Dinner was held in the Conservatory at the Four Pillars Hotel in Abingdon and 32 of us sat to dinner we all had a very pleasant evening. Traditionally business is not held at this meeting. However, it was reported that our next meeting would be on Saturday 20th November and it was hoped to have towers and dinner all within walking distance of Pimlico. It was also hoped to have a quarter peal in August to mark the 100th Anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale and we are hoping for a band made up of our nursing members.
The meeting was closed in the customary way with hand bell ringing and many members stayed at the hotel or nearby overnight. On the Sunday morning the band was split to join local ringers at a number of churches namely All Saints, Marcham -6, All Saints, Sutton Courtenay – 6, St Michael , Cumnor – 8, St. Giles, Oxford – 8, and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – 12. We are very grateful to the ringers at these local towers for accommodating us. Some members then gathered together for the final time to ring the very pleasant 10 at St Thomas, Oxford thus ending another very varied and enjoyable weekend ringing.