The meeting began at 4.00 p.m. and was followed by the usual Branch Practice.



We have a light reverse ring of six. Five of our bells were cast in 1718 by the Gloucestershire firm of Abraham Rudhall.  Two bells carry the following inscriptions:

 Prosperity to this place, Peace and good neighbourhood

Inscriptions on the other three bells record the names of the church wardens at the time (William Adams and Edward Burnard), the name of the bell founder, and the name of the vicar (the Reverend William Musson).  It is thought that these bells were cast using metal from the four bells that previously hung in the tower.  The sixth bell, the treble was added in 1881 and was made by Mears and Stainbank of London.  The bells were retuned and rehung on modern bearings in 2005.

The wooden frame in which the bells hang is of significant historic interest.  It dates from the 17th century but contains some much older wood reused from the earlier bell frame.  In 2002 the frame was found to be unsafe, but was carefully restored in 2005.

Shabbington, Oxfordshire
St Mary Magdalene











23.75 "


Mears & Stainbank




25.75 "


Abraham Rudhall I




26.50 "


Abraham Rudhall I




27.00 "


Abraham Rudhall I




29.25 "


Abraham Rudhall I





32.50 "


Abraham Rudhall I



11.00 "


Thomas Mears I

Treasurer’s Report by Amy Herlihy

The number of subscriptions in 2008 stands at 120.  The number of members supporting the 100 Club stands at 73. We have sent £182.50 each to the Bell Fund and the Restoration Fund. The Leap Year Sponsored Ringing Week raised over £1000 in aid of the ODG Bell Fund. I would like to thank to Sue Dyke for running the 100 Club and note that I will be asking  Frank Norman to audit the accounts again this year.

Branch Practices for the remainder of 2008

6th December    Benson   4 – 5.30pm

Guild Programme for 2008

22nd November  10 Bell Striking Competition Wallingford 22nd November  General Committee Meeting Brightwell

From the Ringing Master by Hilarie Rogers

We continue to offer a variety of practices apart from the more general Branch Practice. Grandsire Doubles practices take place on the afternoon of the last Tuesday of the month, and Surprise Minor and Surprise Major Practices happen roughly every 6 weeks. At Warborough on the last Wednesday of the month, we are beginning to try Lincolnshire as well as Cambridge, but have been unlucky with numbers (and a broken wrist!) over the summer and have had to cancel a couple of them.

We have also run a training day which covered plain hunt, and hunting to methods (and the planned follow-up is still in the pipeline!); and a plain hunt morning for some of the ringers from Benson who didn’t get a place on the Radley Course.

If you are interested in anything mentioned, please get in touch. I am also happy to arrange one-off practices and quarter peals if you would like to try something, but check with your Tower Captain first.

I would be very glad to hear of any achievements of you and your ringers.

Hilarie Rogers 01865 890163

25 Years Ago

The autumn meeting of the branch was held on Saturday 29th October 1983 at Tetsworth. There was tea in the Red Lion and this was by the autumn meeting, with further ringing at Great Haseley. The meeting consisted of the usual business items but a new Secretary was elected  Mrs Hilarie Rogers. Twenty nine members attended the meeting.


Aston Rowant by Robert Newton

I am very pleased to report that support remains good and that attendance for Sunday service ringing is normally at least six. Good progress is being made at our Tuesday practice, although our repertoire is generally limited to Grandsire, Plain Bob and Stedman.

Two quarter peals have been rung: 3 Doubles in April for the birth of Elizabeth Beatrice Spalton, third daughter of Mary-Grace and Tim (one of our ringers) and Plain Bob Minor in June to welcome our new curate, Helen O’Sullivan, on the day of her ordination. The Doubles quarter was Debs Brown’s first attempt.

Allan Smith is making steady progress at home after another spell in hospital (thankfully much shorter than the previous one). We wish him well and hope that the improvement continues.

Benson Tower by John Tchighianoff

This report covers the last 12 months at Benson as it appears the Tower Captain had a ‘senior moment’ earlier this year. He carefully wrote a report for the AGM newsletter but somehow managed to e mail the report for the 2007 AGM to the editor. Some of you may have thought my remarks seemed out of date!

For the first time for many years we rang the bells half muffled before the 11 am service at the War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday and we understand this was well received by all those listening outside. Hopefully we will be able to continue this every year.

During the last few months of 2007 we celebrated several significant birthdays. On 8th October we rang a quarter of Bob Doubles which was Dave’s first inside and was also to congratulate his mother-in-law, Doris Ade, on her 90th birthday. We then had general ringing on the morning of 12th October for Maureen’s mother, Nora, on her 90th birthday. On 12th November we rang a quarter of Bob Triples to celebrate Alf’s 80th birthday during which Alf and Betty sat outside in their car listening.

I am pleased to report that good progress is being made with all our learners and it is now normal for us to have up to twelve ringers on Sunday. Our latest recruit is 10 year old James who keeps us all on our toes with his boundless enthusiasm. Within a few weeks of starting to ring he produced three different working models of bells out of Lego complete with stay and slider and also insisted on ringing up our 14 cwt tenor which he managed with only a minimum of assistance.

Most of 2008 has been taken up with our appeal and fund raising. We are delighted with the support we have received from the village and elsewhere as a result of which we are planning for the work to be carried out early in 2009.

Brightwell Baldwin by Mary Wells

So here we are, the Harvest Festival season is almost upon us – and we still haven’t had summer!  Worse than that, nine months on and we still don’t have a rector. The wheels of the Church of England grind exceeding slow, but apparently the interviews are due to take place soon. Perhaps it is being a tad optimistic to hope that by January - ish, we will have our three days a week (to be shared by four villages) incumbent.  And even more optimistic to hope that he / she is a keen ringer!!  It would help though, as we can only ring two Sundays out of four now as the small person and her chauffeur and the organist are busy at other churches on the first Sunday in the month and we don’t have a service on the second Sunday.

Despite all this, it looks like the ringing practices are starting up again here.  Olive’s shoulders are either better or not, but she’s having a go anyway. Claire has stopped hobbling, and although her foot is still not quite right, it seems she’s able to get on the end of a rope too.  So look out Holloway Shield Holders – your days could be numbered!

Talking of keen, you are advised to wear slippers and sun glasses if you venture into the tower at Brightwell Baldwin - as we’ve been very keen!! You’ll be impressed to know that Louise can still fit under the bells with a brush, and Olive can still bend to sweep down the stairs!  Mind you, the sound effects emanating from the stairs as she brushed were quite something.  Robert in the meantime, was up with the bells organising Louise and feeling very smug!  It seems the frame is holding up OK and isn’t showing any signs of rusting – almost a miracle really, as the snow was blowing in through the louvers when he was painting it back in 2001.

And knowing that Louise is still slim enough to fit under the bells, you will be amazed to hear that she won a Sumo Award at our recent Village Olympics!  Everyone that took part in the Sumo looked very silly in the suits, and if they were unlucky enough to get pushed over, they were completed stranded like beached whales - unless someone helped them get up!  Louise won her award for not actually getting into that predicament and for managing to get someone down who was actually not only taller than her, but also far heavier! So my advice would be not to upset her – you might come off the worst for wear!

Chalgrove by Brian Gray

At St Mary’s we have a team of 10 ringers and manage to ring every Sunday. We now have a practice night on the third Wednesday of the month, and welcome ringers to come and join us.

Having won the Branch Six bell Striking competition, we look forward to the Guild competition in Milton Keynes.  As conductor I must remember that we have to ring 240 changes instead of our usual 120, even more time to fall asleep!

We recently auctioned a Quarter Peal for Church funds for a very good price! This will be rung to celebrate the 40th Wedding anniversary of a couple from the congregation. 

By the time you read this we will have held our “Floral Bells” Harvest Flower Festival, where we will launch an appeal for the “Care of the Bells.”

Three of our bells are listed in the “Schedule of Bells for Preservation”

The six bells are hung in a beautifully crafted oak frame, having been rehung in 1888. Work was also carried out in the 1970s.

At present the bells are very awkward to ring, with only the brave able to handle the heavier bells. As they are so hard, this makes it very difficult to train people, we wish to encourage younger and less able bodied to join us.

To this end we have sought a quote for works to include tuning and rehanging the bells on new bearings and fittings. We plan to do all the initial pre-work ourselves, and to provide labour for the main works to reduce costs.

Original estimates were in the region of £40K. The price we have received from Whites the Bellhangers is £26.5K. It must be noted that this price does not include any pre-work costs, such as builders who will have to install the steel girders needed to lift the bells out.

A “letter of intent” has been sent to Whites as we hope to complete this exciting project within the next two years

Chinnor by Gordon Smith

I do not regularly contribute to the Branch Newsletter  because not a great deal changes at Chinnor. However, during the last few weeks Beverly has resumed ringing and we have gained Sarah, who claims not to have rung for thirty years and even then only whilst she lived in a Rectory for eighteen months! Anyway both join us for Sunday ringing and are making very useful contributions.

Practise  evenings  are regularly supported by Shirley and Jenny (Aston Rowant) and Jennifer, Jane and Ray (Little Milton) with the Little Milton contingent regularly ringing for services - thanks to all.

Progress is gradual; however, last Sunday we actually rang plain courses of two methods - looks like the coming year will be exciting!

Dorchester by David Parker

It is good to report that we are keeping our numbers up in Dorchester, enabling us to ring eight bells most Sunday mornings. We often ring a touch of Bob Doubles with 7, 6, and 8 covering when the striking can be quite good. However, when we ring for a wedding (we shall have had about ten this year) we usually choose to ring call changes, believing the striking will be better! Certainly, with Aileen calling the Devon Call Changes, it invariably goes well. We have been grateful to a number of you from neighbouring towers who have come and helped us out for a few of the weddings when we have been short.

Chris and Fiona, our latest recruits, have worked very hard to achieve good bell control and are now ringing rounds and call changes well. We look forward to having them with us for Sunday ringing any time now.

It does not happen very often, but when a ringer from the past returns we are delighted. This happened a couple of years ago when Cyd returned to Dorchester. She had been taught by Doug Exon, and although she had not rung for years she found the skills were still there. Bob Doubles were a bit rusty, but going on the Radley course soon put that right. George and Chris Hill also went on the course and came home much more confident in their ringing. More of our ringers should go on courses, but they all seem to be so busy with other things! More recently, Frank Norman returned after a year or two away from the tower. It is so good to have his experience and reliability, for example in doggedly ringing Plain Bob or Grandsire accurately when all around him are at sea. Another ringer we are indebted to for his experience is Alf who while remaining loyal to Benson (dating from his temporary sojourn there some years ago) comes to our Tuesday practices regularly and patiently rings an ‘anchor’ bell all evening and thereby helps learners to make progress with a ‘new’ method.

Personally, I am grateful to Hilarie for encouraging me to take part in the Surprise Minor and Major practices in the district. She was very gracious and forgiving when I turned up late for a quarter peal having foolishly gone to Brightwell Baldwin instead of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell. For those of you who don’t know, the former has six bells where it would be difficult to ring Cambridge Major! Sadly, that same day Hilarie went on to play tennis and broke her wrist. We all miss her and wish her a speedy recovery.

This year we almost raised a team for the Striking Competition. I say almost because we had to borrow a ringer to make up the six – many thanks to Ann Mayou. We were up against stiff opposition – congratulations to the winners – but we were made to realise we really need to widen our experience by visiting other towers. Others come and visit us, and our visitors are always welcome, like Cath, a new arrival to the district from Manchester who will be working in S. Oxfordshire for the next year and who is keen to join in ringing locally.

Finally, I would like to thank Aileen for taking charge during my frequent absences this year (Dorchester ringers tease me that I am always going away on holiday!). Going on the course for teaching learners was a great benefit to her – and us.

Drayton St. Leonard by Daniel Rogers

Ringing continues to occur at Drayton on Wednesday evenings – recently, we took a summer break, but we are returning to normal service now the autumn is starting again.

Liz and Claire, our learners, are both advancing at a very fast rate – Claire is now into rounds, and Liz is putting the finishing touches on call changes.

As many of you know, Hilarie broke her wrist a few weeks ago, and we all wish her a speedy recovery. (And it hasn’t stopped her ringing!) This has led to slightly depleted numbers, but we still manage to get a practice in most weeks.

Ewelme by Judith and Mary Spence

Approaching  Dunkirk ahead of schedule, we broke our journey home last May from Ewelme’s twin Burgundy village of Nolay in Bergues, attracted by a civic belfry and abbey tower, visible from the motorway.

It was 2pm on Saturday and shops and services were just opening after the lunch break as we walked through Vauban’s town wall to the central square.   Following World War ll damage, the present belfry was built in 1961 on the site and largely in the style of the 14th century one, which had itself replaced a belfry of 1112.  The tourist office on the ground floor was doing a brisk trade on account of the popularity of a film – a comedy – set in this reputedly cold, inhospitable region, about the arrival and eventual happy integration of a sceptical southerner.

John (5) eventually persuaded us all to climb the tower and we were rewarded with a fine view of the town, surrounding country and distant sea.  At the top we found 50 bronze bells, 5 of them rescued in 1940, including 2 cast in 1628, weighing between 14 and 1500 kilos, with a range of 4 chromatic octaves (tenor in G) rung mechanically every 15 minutes.

To our surprise, we also found the town bell-ringer, seated at his 49 keys, arranged in 2 rows, and 20 pedals; eyes glued to the score of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, he was awaiting news from the town hall opposite of the emergence of the newlyweds.  (Civic weddings are compulsory in France but can, of course, be complemented by a church service.)

There was such a delay that we had time to tell him how Ewelme’s bells were being rung that very afternoon for a wedding.  It turns out that few weddings have traditionally been marked by bells in Bergues, but that their sounding out after the wedding that features at the end of the recent film has prompted a flood of requests from local couples.  The bell-ringer praised the mobile phone, remembering the perils of leaning over the parapet to catch a glimpse of the handkerchief waved below to signal the couple’s imminent appearance.

Because each key has to be depressed with a fist, the eventual rendering was disappointingly sluggish and staccato, but, as we hit the road, we were treated to a few English rounds.  Were they just for us?

“Bell-ringer”, Jacques Martel, performs regularly at 11 am on Monday, market day, so, if you’re passing, do cock an ear.

We’re glad we don’t have 193 narrow, winding steps to climb every practice night!

Great Haseley by Hilarie Rogers

Even with people away over the summer, we have still managed to ring most Mondays, and enjoy the company of ringers from Little Milton, Drayton St. Leonard Shabbington and Benson who join those from Haseley itself. Natalie has moved out of the village but hopes to come and visit from time to time.

Our ringing is progressing into touches of Bob Doubles, and other funny things that come to mind like Kaleidoscope ringing, and Penultimus Doubles. Hilarie’s one-handed technique has also developed over the summer! A new electrical system in the church has provided added interest, as the system trips out whenever a bulb goes (and there are 6 or 7 on the stairs plus 3 in the ringing room, 2 in the bells and one outside) and we have to hunt out a church key to access the switches (and now know that the tower lights are labelled up with something unlikely, and located separately from all the others!!).

We have spring cleaned (a while ago now) but have only had one painting session this summer – hopefully next year will be when we finish off upstairs and have a repeat inspection for the Tower Maintenance Award.

Great Milton by Pat Cox

In spite of the rain, we have had quite a busy summer - there have been five weddings, and all coped happily with the sunshine and showers! We supported the Fete which was blessed with a really beautiful day and our BBQ at Ray Fergusson's house was a real success - warm outside and warm inside! It was good to see everyone together for an evening  celebration.

Our Away day this year is going to be special - we hope to go to St Paul's to listen to the ringing later in the autumn - no doubt there will be an opportunity to tell you all about it in the New Year.

That's all the social news - otherwise we practise  as usual on a Thursday evening - visitors most welcome - and ring for services and village occasions as normal.

Little Milton by Raymond Fergusson

I am pleased to report that the tower has recruited two new ringers since my report in the February newsletter and both are making good progress. This has placed an additional burden on Chris Rogers and we appreciate even more the support that he continues to provide. Some of our ringers travel to Chinnor where they can improve their skills and we thank Gordon for making this possible.

The recent Ringing Road Show was attended by me and two other members of the tower and before anyone wonders yes we found Stoneleigh Park! (In joke) It was a very enjoyable day with the highlight being a shared photograph with Steve Coleman. I have to say there was not a long queue for this photographic opportunity. we were alone! If we put up the picture in the tower it may inspire us to improve our ringing. The other memory was me struggling even more than usual with a mini ring. Clearly my technique was not transferable to this “unique” style of ringing!

We are all looking forward to our annual meeting and social in the pub.

Shabbington by Ann Mayou

We all continue to have a lot of fun, as well as making serious progress, at Shabbington under the patient and inspiring direction of Daniel Rogers.  Our two youngest ringers are very excited to find that they are now able to ring rounds with us.  Our more advanced learners are now ready to join the Guild and I will be proposing them for membership at the half yearly meeting in October (to be held at Shabbington).

In March we rang a sponsored quarter peal in support of the Diocesan Bell Fund, followed by two more quarters in April, one of which was in celebration of St George’s Day.  Our quarter at the end of August was rung to congratulate Daniel Rogers on his terrific A level results.

In April Colin Turner brought a band to ring a complicated peal which unfortunately had to be abandoned when one of the ringers was overcome by a gastric attack.  Another peal attempt by a more local band in July turned into a quarter of Rossendale.  Other visitors included a band from Basingstoke in June.

We were very pleased to host the first part of the Young Ringers’ Training Day at Shabbington on 18th August.  The youngsters soon got the hang of our reverse ring and light bells before going onto Great Haseley for a messy session ‘upstairs’ and some more ringing.

The Grandsire practices are going well and as always we are very grateful to our kind, patient and resourceful tutors.

Thame by Rosalie Gibson

We were thrilled to receive in June a Gold Award for Tower Maintenance

which lasts for three years. (after that we will have another tidy up and give it another go!!)

We continue to be able to ring for Morning Service each Sunday morning and recently Monday practices have seen more people turning up. We are delighted to have Luke Smith coming along to do his Duke of Edinburgh award bellringing exercise and with it the added bonus of his dad who came along with him and is now also learning. Thanks for this are due to Gordon Smith who has taken on the task of teaching them. Hugh Dean from Oxford has also been very supportive in coming most Monday evenings and this has given us the opportunity to  enjoy ringing plain courses of the more simple methods and on the odd occasion a touch of Grandsire. We are always pleased to see any visitors to swell the numbers. This year there are a large number of weddings to ring for and in September after a long interregnum we will at last have a Vicar in the Parish again.

Warborough by Sue Dyke

Our learners are still progressing – Andrew is now Plain Hunting and Keiran is ringing Call Changes.  We continue to ring regularly on practice nights and for service on Sundays. 

We have rung for two village weddings recently when we are lucky to be able to have the first glimpse on the bride when she enters the church through the ringing room.

Ringers on the Crowthorne Course visited us again this year to practise several Surprise methods which sounded very good.  We have also welcomed a number of other ringers on their tower outings and a lady, a lapsed ringer, who was staying in Shillingford whilst working locally - she heard the bells, had nothing better to do with her evening and came to ring with us for two weeks.

We had a morning’s outing in April when 13 of us visited Little Milton and Shabbington.  For several of the ringers it was the first time they had rung in a different tower and some had trouble getting to grips with the anti clockwise ringing circle at Shabbington!   We finished the morning off with a very good pub lunch at the Old Fisherman at Shabbington.