Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Wargrave History Society

MEMBERS learned about the history of bell ringing at November’s meeting.

John Harrrison , who leads the team of bell ringers at All Saints’ Church in Wokingham, spoke about campanology from the 18th century to the modern day.

He said there are 40,000 active ringers in the country and also described the way the bells are hung in churches to allow them to be rung.

The bells at Wokingham range from 4 cwt to 14½ cwt, while those at Wargrave are heavier, ranging from 5½ cwt to 17½ cwt.

The largest bell at Wokingham is more then 6ft in diameter.

Mr Harrison described a bell-ringing pattern which was introduced in about 1600 and is memorised by ringers.

He said that during the Middle Ages, bell ringing would be used to signal events such as the start of market day or victory in naval battles as well as for church needs. It became so widespread that efforts were made to ban it.

An Act of Parliament in 1643 prohibited sport on the Lord’s Day, including the “ringing of bells for pleasure”.

By the time of the Industrial Revolution, ringers had acquired a reputation for being unruly and often drunk, sometimes even being paid in beer.

Before transport links were improved, there were just 60 suppliers of church bells, including a foundry in Wokingham.

The oldest bell in the Wokingham church was installed in 1704, about 50 years after the local foundry closed, and was made by Samuel Knight’s Reading foundry.

The ring of six bells was refurbished and replaced with two additional bells in 1903.

In 1880, the Sonning Deanery Ringing Society was founded, with Wargrave included, and its successor is now the longest-established change ringing society.

Its first master was Rev F E Robinson, from Wokingham, who was the first person to ring 1,000 peals , and also gave a record-breaking performance of more than nine hours.

At his funeral in 1910 a peal of 5040 changes was rung.

The first lady ringers started in 1914, including Rev Robinson’s daughter Vera, but it remained a predominantly male activity.

Bell ringing was banned during both world wars but experienced a resurgence in the Seventies, which resulted in a lot more activity.

The society’s next meeting will be its annual Christmas party on Tuesday, December 12.

On Tuesday, January 9, Mick Pope will talk about the village’s recreation ground.

Meetings take place at the Old Pavilion, off Recreation Road, starting at 8pm .

For more infomation , call Peter Delaney on 0118 940 3121 or visit

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