Record breaking peal ringers in 1956

The picture shows Badsey bellringers in the churchyard. Left to right they were: Gerald Hemming, Robert Hall, Colin Longmore, Geoffrey Hemming, Harry Wheatley, Roger Savory, Anthony Brazier and Wilfred Newman.

On Saturday 19 May 1956 the eight ringers set a record for the longest peal ever rung on the bells at Badsey. The peal was a 'Plain Bob Major', it had 6000 changes and took 3 hours 30 minutes to complete. It was composed and conducted by Roger Savory.

The picture was kindly given to us by Robert Hall who rang the treble bell when the record was set.

In November 2012, Roger Savory sent us these memories from New Jersey. A few days previously Hurricane Sandy had hit the east coast of the US leaving Roger without electricity for two and half days. We are delighted that, when power returned, Roger was able to send us this.

It was such a surprise to get the photo of the 1956 Record Peal band, that it has taken a few days to think about those days and what's happened to the members of the band. I am so pleased to know that it was Robert Hall who sent in the picture. I sometimes have the pleasure of ringing with Robert at The Bell Tower in Evesham whenever I come over the pond to visit my cousin Pat Goldstraw. Unfortunately, these are getting fewer and fewer as Anno Domini takes its toll. So I thought I would add just a few words on the 1956 band members, while I can still communicate. The band consisted of five Badsey ringers and three from St Andrews, Great Hampton. Taking the members pictured from left to right -

Gerald C. Hemming of the St. Andrew's, Great Hampton band was an excellent, if temperamental, ringer and conductor, who I used to visit every time I came back to the UK on business or vacation. He and I rang in many peals over the latter years. Gerald died several years ago.

Robert C. Hall is the only other ringer in that band that I know is still surviving. He is one of the new 'younger band' that I helped to train at Badsey in the late 40's/early 50's and still ringing. (Bravo Robert). (The 'old band' had dwindled and essentially died out, as the 'gap' cased by WW2 caught up this us.)

Colin Longmore, also one of the 'younger band' that I helped train. Subsequently, Colin did do some ringing, but died at a relatively early age. (Robert probably has more info on that).

Geoffrey J. Hemming was leader of the St. Andrew's, Great Hampton, band. He came from a ringing family. Geoff's father, Jim Hemming, was at one point Mayor of Evesham. Geoffrey was a fine musician and a very dedicated ringer. He was also the 'architect' of the magnificent ring of bells that we have today in The Bell Tower at Evesham. These new bells replaced a set of ten bells that I call 'real clunkers'. But Geoff knew what he wanted in that magnificent tower and he worked very hard to get them. I was fortunate enough to ring in the first peal on the brand new ring of twelve bells in January 1952.

Harry Wheatly was, I believe, one of the 'young band' who gave up ringing at an early age. But again, Robert probably has better info him.

R. Roger Savory, composed and conducted the record Peal of 6,000 changes in the method known as Plain Bob Major. I learned to ring bells first as a 'chimer' with Charles Binyon and then as a full circle ringer in 1944, under the ringing master of the time, George King. Later this position was filled by Frank Jones, who gave up ringing after a couple of years - long enough for me to ring my first peal - not at Badsey, but at Upton-on-Severn in 1946. Frank Jones gave up ringing soon after that.

At that time the nucleus of 'the young band' was formed , initially with input from Tony Brazier (see below).

In September 1949 I started my 19 months in National Service in the Royal Navy, which became 2 years due to the escalation of the Korean War. The first year after initial 'boot camp' was spent at sea with the Home Fleet on the cruiser HMS Superb, so I was unable to continue leading the 'young band'. This duty was essentially filled for a few years by Tony Brazier.

While in the RN, I was persuaded to go to University as soon as my service was over. So with a County Major Scholarship I entered a 4-year degree course in Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University. For the first 2 years I commuted to Birmingham on a daily basis, so was able to resume looking after 'the young band' at Badsey. The last 2 years at Birmingham I went into digs in Selly Oak, so could only ring at Badsey at weekends. But the young band survived. In 1955 we rang our first full Peal together, 5040 changes in 2 Methods of Minor on the 6 bells at Stoulton near Worcester, which I conducted.. The band dedicated the peal as a Congratulation to me for gaining my degree of B.Sc that summer. The other member of that band who was not in the subsequent 6000 record peal in '56 was Patrick Hatcher, I don't know what happened to Patrick. Again, perhaps Robert can give us better info on Patrick.

In September 1955 I moved to Hampshire to take up my first job at Fawley oil refinery, so loosing the ability to continue developing 'the young band'. But I was determined to do something special with the young band before my work and new 'home' took over too much of my time (I subsequently became Master of the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers, encompassing essentially all of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands).

So although it was a Record Peal, it was also the end of an era.

Anthony J. Brazier was what is called in ringing circles a '43-er', i.e. he took up ringing in 1943 after the Battle of El Alamein, giving Winston Churchill the opportunity to rescind his ban on the ringing of church bells after the evacuation of the BEF from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. Tony was very proud to be one of the '43-ers', who still hold anniversary gatherings annually, though their number is now dwindling.

Tony did stalwart work with the young band, being somewhat more experienced. but progress was slow. Ultimately Tony changed his affiliation from the Worcestershire Association of ringers to become President of the Four Shires Guild, supporting ringing progress in the fringe north Cotswold towers which were split between the diocese of Oxford, Gloucester, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

Wilfred Newman was Secretary of the band of ringers at Great Hampton and a very steady experienced ringer who gave great support to Geoff Hemming and all his work in teaching and encouraging the younger ringers of that era.

See also:

Looking Back is an assortment of old photographs around the villages of Badsey and Aldington in Worcestershire.

Updated 6 November 2012.