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



Although a church building had existed on this site for a few centuries previously, the present Church of St. Peter & St. Paul dates largely from the 14th century, when the aisles and tower were added.

It is interesting to note that four ringers were committed to the stocks in 1557 by Sir Henry Bedingfield. This punishment was for ringing to welcome Princess Elizabeth on her journey through Aston, from West Wycombe to Rycote, en route to banishment in Woodstock. This followed two months’ imprisonment in the Tower of London. At this time Church Lane was probably part of the main road from London to Oxford! Current antagonism towards the bells being rung is evidently not quite as strong, as no ringers have received such treatment for some considerable time.

The spire was removed and the upper parts of the tower rebuilt in 1811, following the collapse of part of the parapet through the church roof.

For many years before the 1970’s, the 13 cwt ring of five was described as unringable in ‘Dove’. The old frame, parts of which dated from 1723, gave a roughly anti-clockwise circle, with the Treble, 4th and Tenor swinging east/west, the 2nd north/south and the 3rd diagonally in a north east/south west direction. Understandably, only a few quarter peals had been rung on these bells (largely by dedicated bands of enthusiasts) in the fifty years before restoration.

In October 1978, following retuning and augmentation, the bells were re-hung in a new hardwood frame by Whites of Appleton. The new treble was given by Alan R Pink in memory of his wife, Elsie, who had died in 1972. The three lightest bells have cast iron headstocks and the remainder have wooden headstocks and retain their canons. Quarter peals are now a little more manageable. Peal attempts are rare – the last one being to mark the new Millennium.

For at least 20 years, in view of the long unguided draught, the possibility of a ringing gallery has been discussed. Following a visit from the DAC and an inspection by representatives of the Guild’s Towers and Belfries committee, it now looks more likely that rope guides may be installed. No doubt many of our visitors would approve of such a solution to managing what can be quite a challenging (and rewarding) ring of bells.











c 1450





Ellis Knight I Reading

Cast by John Warner & Sons, formerly cast by Edward Hemins Bicester

Roger Landen Wokingham

Ellis Knight I Reading

Ellis Knight I Reading

Whitechapel 1975


F #

G #

A #


C #

D #

Cwt Qtr Lbs








Prayes ye the Lord

O hannis OrA PRO TONIS

Our hope is in the Lord

To the glory of God The gift of Alan Roy Pink in memory of his wife Elsie May who died 20th January 1972

Treasurer’s Report                   by Amy Herlihy 

The number of subscriptions in 2009 stands at 127 (5 honorary members and 122 members). The number of members supporting the 100 club stands at 68. We have sent £170 to the ODGCB Bell Restoration Fund and £170 to the Oxford Diocesan Bell Fund. I would like to thank Sue Dyke for running the 100 Club and note that I will be asking Frank Norman to audit the accounts again this year and have very much valued his work auditing the books for 2008.

Branch Practices for the remainder of 2009

5th December    Benson   4 – 5.30pm

Guild Programme for 2009

21st November  10 Bell Striking Competition Long Crendon

28th November  Guild Autumn General Committee Meeting Great Milton

From the Ringing Master by Hilarie Rogers

The usual monthly practices have continued and progress has been made by all.  In addition, the occasional 8-bell practices have been well supported and more will be arranged over the winter. These are all mentioned in Look To, but please have a word if you think you might be interested in coming along and I will include you in my email reminders!

We have run a Treble Bob session, and a Plain Hunt session since the last newsletter; and I am planning a ringing down (and up) session plus a Youngsters’ afternoon, all in response to requests. Do ask if you would like us to arrange anything.

25 Years Ago

It is notable that 25 years ago the Autumn Meeting was held on Saturday 29th September 1984 at ASTON ROWANT – as it will be this year! Twenty seven members attended the meeting in Kingston Blount Village Hall. Seven new members were elected, all from Warborough. The list included Peter Burridge - still a member at Warborough.


Aston Rowant             by Robert Newton

It is pleasing to report that it is rare for fewer than six bells to be rung on a Sunday and that practices continue to be well supported. Currently, we are trying to ring more Minor and, hopefully, will be able to progress to Surprise again once we have mastered Kent.

Quarter peals have been rung for the ordination to the Priesthood of Helen O’Sullivan, curate, and as a compliment from the rest of the band to William Bowers on his Masters Degree.

Benson                      by John Tchighianoff

At the beginning of February while the snow was on the ground we assisted Whites of Appleton to remove the bells and the old wooden frame. Now the Autumn Meeting is upon us and at the time of writing the bells have just been returned to the tower together with the new cast iron frame.

Six of our bells are listed in the “Schedule of Bells for Preservation” in the Oxford Diocese. We would have liked to have had all the bells tuned but initially we were told this would not be allowed. However it was agreed that we would be granted a Faculty with the condition that the decision on tuning would be made following a meeting with the relevant parties and the tuner from Whitechapel once the bells were out of the tower and in Appleton. Although I think we presented a good case for tuning, the Church Buildings Council recommended that none of the listed bells be tuned. We made representations to the Chancellor of the Diocese but his final decision was that we should only tune the two unlisted bells and this was then carried out at Whitechapel.  Meanwhile once the old headstocks were removed three cracks were found in the crown of the 5th and this was sent away to Soundweld for repair. All this resulted in the bells being out of the tower longer than expected.

Whilst all this was going on most of us continued with our ringing at Brightwell Baldwin, Drayton St Leonard, Dorchester and elsewhere and we are very grateful to the tower captains who have allowed us to use their bells. We have also been meeting regularly on a Friday morning for bacon rolls and to ring handbells just to keep up the social side of ringing!

Work on the bells was finally completed and about 30 ringers, friends and benefactors visited Whites on Saturday 1st August to view the bells fully assembled in their brand new freshly painted cast iron frame. This was followed by lunch for some of us at the Greyhound at Besslesleigh and we were interested to learn from Brian that this is where Whites first started in business.

During August scaffolding was installed and the three original oak foundation beams were removed. When the ends were removed from the walls they were found to be in a terrible state and it is quite surprising that they managed to keep the old frame in place. Building work started in the tower on 20th August, cutting holes in the walls and casting padstones for the two heavy steel foundation beams. All the steels were then delivered and placed in position under the supervision of Graham and James and then concreted in place by the builder with our help.

Finally the RAF transported the bells and frame to Benson on 14th September and all were installed within three days with much help from the ringers whilst the ladies supplied constant teas and lunches.

We now have more work to do in the ringing chamber to alter the stairway and remake the floors and ceilings before the ropes can be hung. Hopefully by the time of the Autumn Meeting all this will have been done and we will be back to ringing.

The Bishop of Dorchester will be dedicating the bells at a special service which has been arranged for Sunday 22nd November at 6.00pm. All will be welcome to this and there will be refreshments and open ringing following the service. There will also be another opportunity to ring the bells at our branch practice on Saturday 5th December.

Chalgrove                     by Andrew Davis

Bells Restoration Project


“If all the bells in England were rung at one time, there would scarcely be a single spot where a bell would not be heard.” Bishop Latimer, 1552

This may not still be accurate, but many generations have enjoyed the ring of the bells at St Mary’s and we want future generations to have the same benefit.

The six bells at St Mary’s are hung in a beautifully crafted oak frame, having been re-hung in 1888.  Further minor works were carried out in the 1970’s.  The bells date from 1664 (2nd, 3rd & 4th), 1729 (5th & Tenor) and 1888 (Treble).

The bells have become increasingly difficult to ring which limits the number of people able to ring. The bells team have been training a group of young volunteers in the art of bell ringing. We now need to focus our attention on the bell mechanisms. 

Project Outline

This project seeks to replace the headstocks (the part that sits on top of the bell and allows it to swing) and clappers, thus providing an easier bell ring.  It is not proposed to undertake any re-tuning or re-casting as these would be permanent (and expensive) works which are considered unnecessary as the current total ring is considered ‘mellow’ by a team of experts (Dr David Knight, Alan Frost and another person) - with the possible exception of the Treble, which sounds ‘dull’ / ‘clanky’ when rung in isolation. It is possible that the Treble may be cracked.

We will not have an accurate assessment of the quality of the bells until they have been lowered.  If the treble is found to be cracked the intention is for it to be re-cast – thus avoiding future costs of re-lowering and further corrective works.

The cost is estimated at just below £28,650 (plus VAT, where applicable). This takes into account certain deductions for works undertaken locally, with relevant skills. The intention is to raise funds from relevant grant funding application and local initiatives.


The Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) issued a certificate approving the proposed works dated 20 July 2009. This allows for the Treble to be worked on, if necessary and with Alan Frost’s approval.

Next Steps

In order for the project to progress further, it will be necessary to apply for a Faculty (obtained from the Chancellor or the Archdeacon) under the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2000.

This can only be obtained if the PCC support and approve this project.

Request to PCC

To consider and approve the preparation of a Faculty application for the works, as detailed above.

I am pleased to say that our PCC were in unanimous agreement to proceed with this project. We are now in the process of fundraising within the local community and seeking grants with the hope of starting this work early next year.

Meanwhile our practices go from strength to strength. We have full practices on the 3rd & 4th Wednesdays of the month and are grateful to Gordon and Ray for their support. Our three girls are learning well, it is a struggle at Chalgrove as they can only manage the Treble and Second due to the weight and handling from the third upwards.

On the first and second Wednesdays a small group with our young ringers have joined Benson at Brightwell Baldwin or rung at Berrick Salome. This has enabled the girls to have much more ringing time without pulling their arms out of their sockets!

Chrissie and Lucy are ringing call changes on their own, Lauren has progressed to Plain Hunt on various bells and ringing the treble to Grandsire.

We are preparing for the Holloway League over the next few months. All being well by the time we ring for the 2010-11 season Chalgrove Bells will no longer strike fear in those who visit!

Dorchester                   by David Parker

For the last six months life has been a trifle frustrating for the Benson ringers with their bell restoration project dragging on. However, their loss has been our gain. They took up an offer to come to our practices, and with more ringers and a good range of experience we have all made a lot of progress.

For Jane Ford, a new Dorchester resident, who joined us as a novice in January, it has been a great help having the Benson ringers. She has been able to observe what is involved in ringing Plain Hunt and has then had the opportunity to fit in with seven other ringers who knew what they were doing. So Jane, in little over six months, is ringing Plain Hunt confidently and she is to be congratulated for all her hard work.

We have really enjoyed the company of the refugees from Benson and they will be missed when they have their bells back. They will, of course, be welcome to come and join us whenever they can.

Our Sunday ringing and ringing for weddings at Dorchester has been ticking over nicely. Bishop Colin seems to come to the Abbey more frequently these days, and his visits give us an incentive to attend to our striking! Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the public more often pass favourable comments when we do simple call changes than when we ring what is to us more satisfying Grandsire Triples or touches of Bob Doubles. We even have a go at Stedman Doubles sometimes.

As always, visitors from other towers are always welcome. On Sundays we ring at 9.45am for the 10.15 service (but not always on a fifth Sunday, as on 29th November), and we practice on Tuesdays from 7.30 – 9.00pm.

If you are coming to a practice, please arrive promptly at 7.30 when there will be Dorchester ringers arriving (i.e. those who are punctual!) who can let you in. Otherwise, if you are going to be late, please give me a call on 01865 340402 an hour before the practice so that I can arrange for someone to let you in.

Please note that on 15 December there will not be a practice because Cranford House School are having their carol service in the Abbey on that evening.

Drayton St Leonard      by Daniel Rogers

We have welcomed some of the “Benson Nomads” to our practices from time to time over the past few months, and our numbers have been boosted also by the arrival of Hannah, a ringing curate, who rings when she can. We welcomed her by ringing a quarter of Bob Doubles on a very hot day in July. John from Aylesbury has also become a regular and welcome visitor.

We had a very enjoyable evening at the end of July when the Bishop of Dorchester joined us for our practice night – he had expressed an interest following our appearance in Country Life, and I invited him to join us and have a go. In between watching us ring, I gave him a few handling sessions, which went very well! 

We are once more preparing to defend the Holloway Shield, and are also getting ready to ring in the Guild 6-bell competition at the start of October!!

We will be losing Daniel very soon, as he goes to University in Bath – Hilarie has once more taken up the reins as Tower Captain.

Great Haseley               by Hilarie Rogers

Numbers have fluctuated on a Monday night, and we have latterly been joined by Brian, a new ringer from Tetsworth, who is making good progress.

A variety of visitors have rung since the last newsletter, including Wallingford and High Wycombe towers and both the Radley and Bradfield Ringing Courses. We were also visited by a call change band from Devon.

Back in April, we rang a quarter for St George’s Day; and a quarter of St Clements Minor was rung in July for the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Ron and Evelyn Rogers of Great Milton – Christopher’s parents. They married at St Clement’s Church in Oxford, hence the method choice.

Despite good intentions, we have made little progress with painting the frame, and must do better in 2010!

Great Milton                by Pat Cox

Another summer gone - Thame Show always means the real beginning of Autumn for me!

We have been busy here with weddings and lots of visitors. Our thanks to all who help us out on weekdays when half our band is at work!

I think the best thing about summer '09, has been the involvement of our two learners, Adele and Jack - both came to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh awards, and both succeeded and are staying with us. They have added considerably to the enjoyment of our practise nights and are popular members of the team.

Our full peal this year is given to Long Crendon in October, and already 2010 and 2011 are booked - so one way and another GMB have had a good Summer.

Little Milton                 by Raymond Fergusson

It is hard to believe that at this time in 1999 our bells were being refurbished and we were being trained to ring for the Millennium. I think it is some form of achievement that a scratch team of ringers is still together. That said our ringing has not progressed with the time line but we do ring for services, weddings and festivals. We are always very appreciative of the support we receive from Chris Rogers who really does deserve a medal for his patience!  We look forward to the next ten years and hopefully our ringing will be the highlight during that period.

Shabbington                 by Ann Mayou

There is little new to report from Shabbington.  Ringing continues to prosper and we all make progress and have a lot of fun.  We have much enjoyed ringing for two weddings this summer.

Daniel Rogers, who has been such an inspiring mentor, is about to desert us for mathematics at the University of Bath.  We wish him well and we will miss him very much.  Thank you Dan for everything.

Thame                          by Rosalie Gibson

We always manage to ring for Sunday Service but mostly struggle on Monday practice nights due to lack of numbers. We have two new learners, Mary Kirknell and Anita Clayton, who have progressed brilliantly under the care of Gordon Smith for which we are very grateful. They are now both ringing on Sunday mornings for Service. We have also just had return to the fold, Alan Harwood, someone who rang here thirty years ago as a lad and is now getting back into the swing of things ( sorry if that is a pun)  He also is now coming on Sunday mornings so in many ways we are fortunate. We would welcome visitors on a Monday to give us the chance to progress a little.

Warborough                by Sue Dyke

Things have been fairly quiet in Warborough over the last few months due to holidays, illness and other commitments. However, we ring most Thursdays and Sundays and have welcomed a number of visitors on practice night in recent months which helps swell our numbers.

The Bradfield Course ringers visited us in August and we have had several other visiting bands during the past few months.