As many of our readers will know, we are lucky to have several up and coming young ringers in our band and on Sunday 14th September one of them, 13-year-old Roddy Lucas, rang his first quarter-peal. Although Roddy has been ringing for several years this was his first attempt at a quarter-peal, which involves 45 minutes’ continuous ringing, and our congratulations go to him for his achievement. By chance the quarter was also Roy Barclay’s 200th on the bells.
We also rang a quarter-peal on Sunday 12th October, this time in celebration for the life of Janet Mackay whose husband Iain was a member of our band until his health prevented him from ringing some years ago.
On Saturday, 11th October we hosted the Annual Meeting of the Maidstone District of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers. Other ringers from churches around the Maidstone area joined us for ringing, and for Evensong kindly led by Silke. This was followed by tea and then the business meeting at which the District Officers for the forthcoming year (including several from our own tower) were elected.
By the time you read this, our ringers will have taken part in All Saints’ Birthday Celebrations on Saturday 1st November where the tower was open for visitors to see the bells and learn a little about their history and about bellringing in general.
As to the future, on Tuesday 4th November we will be holding our Tower AGM at which we will be electing our own tower officers for the coming year, so ringing will be somewhat curtailed that evening. Then on Saturday 15th November we will be welcoming visitors from the Tonbridge District who will be ringing our bells from 7 – 9pm. This apart, we will be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday services during November.
As autumn approaches things are getting back into full swing in the tower with our ringers now home after their holidays. Although, as mentioned last month, August was a quiet month, we did have some visitors from the Whiting Society. You wouldn’t have heard the bells being rung though as the clappers were tied and the sound transmitted to the ringing room by means of a simulator. This is an ideal way of enabling ringers to have extended practice without disturbing our neighbours. Our simulator was the creation of steeplekeeper, Chris Bassett, – maybe we could persuade him to write an article about it at some stage.
At the beginning of September two of our ringers attended the Ringing Roadshow at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire. The Roadshow is a mixture of ringing activities, seminars, trade and organisation stands from the world of ringing, and of course the obligatory real ale bar (which your scribe was unable to do justice to as he was driving!).
Looking ahead, our ringers will be participating in All Saints’ Birthday Celebrations on Saturday 1st November when the Tower will be open from 2.00 – 4.00pm for visitors to see the bells and learn a little about their history and about bellringing in general. Before that however we are hosting the Annual Meeting of the Maidstone District on Saturday 11th October. There will be ringing from 3.00pm until 4.30pm, when there will be a Service at which anyone is welcome to join us. This will be followed by tea in the church and possibly further ringing afterwards. This apart, we will be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday services during October.
August is generally a quiet month for church activities, with many people being away enjoying their summer holidays. Ringing is no exception and there is thus little to report this month. However we did have one happy occasion when we rang for the wedding of Catherine Marks who was a member of the Staplehurst band until she went to university. We were pleased to welcome a number of Catherine’s university ringing friends who joined us to ring before and after the wedding service. We wish Catherine and husband Richard well for the future.
Looking to the future there are no more weddings this summer requiring bells, so during September we will just be ringing for the usual Sunday services and our normal Tuesday evening practices.
In last month’s Magazine I reported that the Staplehurst bellringers would be entering a band in the Maidstone District ringing contest at Stansted.
The article was necessarily written before the event, and I am sorry to say that the event did not take place, due to the fact that we were the only tower that entered a band. We had won this competition for the previous two years so perhaps other towers were too scared to challenge us!
However the District Barbeque at Marden two weeks later did go ahead and our ringers were there in force. The weather forecast was ominous, but turned out to be mainly fine with just one short shower and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
On Saturday 2nd August we will be ringing for the wedding of Catherine Marks, daughter of Maggie Marks, both former Staplehurst ringers. We have no other weddings requiring bells during August, nor do we have any visiting bands scheduled for the month. However we will, of course, be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday Services during August.
On Saturday 14th June Staplehurst bellringers entered a band in the Maidstone District ringing contest, held at the attractively situated church at Stansted nestling in the North Downs. Two weeks later on 28th June a number of our ringers attended a District Barbeque at Marden. Both events took place after the copy date for the July magazine, but we will have reports on both in the August issue.
After several years when Staplehurst was a popular venue for weddings, this year we have very few and none at all during July for which the couple have requested bells. Neither have we any visiting bands scheduled for July. However we will, of course, be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday Services during July.
On Saturday 10th May twenty-three of our ringers and friends enjoyed their annual outing, during which they rang at six churches around the Braintree area of Essex and enjoyed the usual pub lunch.
On Saturday 24th May it was our turn to play host when we welcomed visiting ringers from around the world who were at Maidstone for the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers’ annual meeting.
This meeting takes place in a different county each year (and sometimes abroad), so it really was a once in a lifetime event for us here in Kent.
During May we also rang for the Ascension Day High Mass.
On Saturday 14th June we will be ringing for a 2.00pm wedding before hot footing it over to Stansted where we will be entering a band in the Maidstone District ringing contest. Staplehurst has won this trophy for the last two years so we will be aiming for a hat trick of wins this year. Two weeks later our ringers are again likely to be out in force at the District Barbeque at Marden. Let’s hope the weather has improved by then!
Perhaps surprisingly, we have no further weddings during June, nor do we have any visiting bands of ringers scheduled to ring our bells. Apart from the wedding mentioned above, we will therefore just be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday Services during June.
Strangely, the period leading up to Easter is a rather quiet one for ringers, in every sense of the word. In common with most other churches we do not practice during Holy Week, we do not ring for any Services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday, nor do we allow visitors to ring our bells during that period. However, the bells rang out joyously as ever to celebrate Easter Day.
With Easter now behind us we look forward to an upturn in activities during May. Firstly on Saturday 10th May our ringers will be going on their annual outing. This year the venue is the area around Braintree in Essex where we will be ringing at six churches and enjoying a pub lunch. A report of the outing will appear in next month’s issue. Then on Monday 19th May we hope to be able to ring for a 12.30pm wedding; however at the time of writing we are experiencing difficulty in finding people who are available to ring in the middle of a working day, and we may have to bring in ringers from other towers to help. It should hopefully be easier to find ringers for the Ascension Day High Mass on Thursday evening, 29th May.
However the highlight of the month must be the visit of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to ring our bells between 3.15 and 4.15pm on Saturday 24th May. The Central Council is the global governing body of bell-ringing and they will be visiting us during their Annual Meeting which this year is being held near Maidstone.
Other than the above, we will be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday Services during May.
As you will know from recent Reports we have several promising young ringers amongst our band, so on the Monday morning of half term week we ran an additional practice especially for them. We also invited youngsters from neighbouring Marden, with adults from both towers providing support. Following two hours of practice the young people, along with the helpers, enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in the church, kindly provided by some of the adults. The event proved very worthwhile and we are now looking at holding similar events during future school holidays, perhaps extending invitations to young people at other towers in the Maidstone District.
Staplehurst is certainly a very popular place to ring at the moment. At our practice on 18th February we had a record 26 ringers, including 6 visitors, a number only normally achieved at some Cathedrals. Then on 9th March we were pleased to welcome some visitors from the Central European Association of ringers. They were visiting the UK to ring peals at Maidstone and Benenden and chose to join us for Sunday morning service ringing.
We have visitors coming to ring quarter-peals on our bells between 12noon and 1.00pm on Thursday 3rd April and between 11.00am and 12 noon on Monday 28th April. That aside, we will be ringing for our normal Tuesday practice evening and regular Sunday Services. However, as usual we will not be practicing during Holy Week.
February was once again a fairly quiet month for our bellringers, so there is not much to report. However, on the morning of Saturday 8th February several of our ringers attended a District Practice at Benenden. There are 12 bells at Benenden, which presents a different sort of challenge to our ringers who are more used to ringing on Staplehurst’s ten bells; indeed for some of our younger ringers it was the first time they had ever rung on twelve, and they acquitted themselves quite well.
Congratulations are also due to Stafford Biddulph, who has returned to ringing after a lengthy break and rang his first quarter-peal for more than a decade for the Sunday evening service on 2nd February. The quarter-peal was also Richard Barclay’s 100th on Staplehurst bells.
In addition to our normal Tuesday practice evening and regular Sunday Services, we will also be ringing for the Ash Wednesday service on 5th March.
All in all January was a rather quiet month for the Staplehurst ringers, following the busy lead up to Christmas, although we did ring for the Epiphany High Mass on 6th January. Then on Saturday 11th January three of our younger ringers attended a District ringing meeting at Boxley at which one of them, Ruby Bayley, was elected to membership of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers.
There is no additional ringing planned for February, so we will just be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday Services.