The United Benefice of Sharnbrook, Felmersham and Knotting with Souldrop ST. PETER'S BELLS and RINGING

TOWER CAPTAINS and notable past ringers.

1883-1889 John Dickens
1915-1921 Edward P. Duffield
1921-1951 Charlie Allen
? - 1960 Tom Bragg
1970-1982 Brian Makeham 
1966-1970 Bunty Lovell
1970-1982 Tom Anderson
1982-Date Patrick Albon
Pat, Jacquie and David Albon are shown outside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

History of  Ringers at Sharnbrook  (By Chris Pickford, Judy Anderson and

Pat Albon - See also History of the Bells)

The bells of St Peter's have rung out from the steeple for at least five centuries, and today the long tradition of bell ringing in the parish is carried on by a keen band of ringers who ring regularly on Sundays and for Church Festivals throughout the year. On Tuesday 13 April 1982 they succeeded in ringing for a full peal of 5040 changes of Plain Bob Minor, the first by an entirely local band for over fifty years, to mark the Centenary of the Bedfordshire Association of Church Bellringers, founded in 1882, The Sharnbrook band played an important part in the early years of the Association, and among the 81 full peals rung  to date (February 2010) there were several remarkable performances worthy of more than local note. The Bromham change-ringers paid a visit to Sharnbrook to try the newly hung bells on 24 February 1883, and within a few years several local ringers had gained sufficient knowledge of change-ringing to qualify for membership of the Bedfordshire Association. The Bedfordshire Mercury of 18 December 1886 carried the following report. "Change Ringing:- On Friday, the 10th, the local ringers rung two six-scores of Bob Doubles. First John Dickins, conductor; 2nd E Newell; 3rd H Tucker; 4th A Barcock; 5th A Farrer, tenor 13 cwt. The united ages of the four back ringers is 65 years. It is 35 years since a six-score of doubles was rung in this parish by a local company alone. "   John Dickens was a joiner at Stoke Mills and led the band until 1898. A further report of six-scores of Bob Doubles and Grandsire Doubles appeared in the Mercury of 26 February 1887, and the establishment of a good local band doubtless provided the incentive to augment the bells to a ring of six, providing greater scope for change-ringing. Charles W Clarke of Bedford was engaged to give tuition, and in the Annual Report for 1887-88 the Association Committee commented that "... the practice of change-ringing is being successfully carried on by a young band of practitioners", adding that "much credit is due to the energy and perseverance of Mr J Dickins". The first full peal on the bells was rung by an Association band on 1 October 1887 for the Golden Jubilee, but on Saturday 6 January 1889 five Sharnbrook men took part in a peal of Minor in seven methods, conducted from the treble by Charles Clarke. This was an outstanding performance in its time, and it is clear that the foundations had been laid both for regular service ringing and for the achievements of later years. There is little written evidence found, or Tower Records kept, to cover the early 20th. C years but recent communication with past ringers, particularly those ringing post World War 2, has helped to fill in some gaps. The photographs below are also of some interest. John Dickens is shown sitting on the fence. (Photo by permission: Theo Gibbs)
After the Great War, progressive change-ringing was revived at Sharnbrook under the leadership of Edward P Duffield, a member of a well known East Anglian ringing family, who worked as a 'Junior Miller' at Stoke Mills (Hipwells - Mill Road) between 1915 and 1921. In August 1919 a peal was rung to welcome the new vicar, Canon Coate, and as a Thanksgiving for Peace. This was the first on the bells by an entirely local band, and in the following December the Sharnbrook company scored a peal of Minor in seven methods. In 1920, members of the band took part in peals of Minor in several other churches in the area including Harrold, Thurleigh and Bromham, and on 27 November they rang a peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor in their own tower, the first of Surprise in the County by ringers residing in one parish. All these peals were conducted by Ted Duffield, who recalls that the band was well on the way towards attempting a peal of Surprise Minor in seven methods when he moved away to Hampshire in 1921. R. C. (Charlie) Allen started ringing aged 14 taught by Ted Duffield. He became the Village blacksmith and in 1949 he celebrated 60 years of ringing by being presented with a clock for his service to the Church and the village. It was doubtless the high level of proficiency attained by the local band which led to the restoration of the bells in 1923-24. Ted Duffield returned to conduct a peal of Surprise Minor in seven methods on the restored bells in 1925, two local ringers taking part in the peal, but his departure from the village had deprived the Sharnbrook ringers of the able leadership which had inspired the peal ringing achievements of 1919- 20. Ted Duffield became a top national ringer and was later elected Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths. ' National Service', which was compulsory after World War 2, made it very difficult to keep ringing bands together. In 1951 the church  was struck by lightning and necessitated various repairs to the spire, tower and church roof. For two years until repairs were completed, no ringing took place. it restarted in 1953 under the able leadership of Tom Bragg. At this time an active young group of learners progressed well and the social side included annual sightseeing trips on the train to London. Ringing has continued to date with only very short gaps whilst necessary repairs to the fabric of the church, tower, and or spire were carried out.  There have been good and less good times through the years since 1921. In the 1980's there was a group including at least eight ringers each capable of ringing Surprise Minor methods. Tom Anderson, who still lives in Sharnbrook, continues to ring regularly at St. Peter's.
The United Benefice of Sharnbrook, Felmersham and Knotting with Souldrop This page last updated 24/05/2024                      Comments / feedback: please contact: webmaster