Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers
The Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers was founded at a meeting in the Chapter Room of the Cathedral on 8th. October 1897. The emphasis for the new Guild and one supported by the Lord Bishop of Truro in a letter carried in the first Guild report was to give up prize ringing to ring for the glory of God and not for the praise of man. Today, some 120 years later our rules continue to reflect that focus stating the object is to, “serve the Church in the Diocese of Truro”. We seek to achieve this through promoting and supporting ringers in all aspects of the Exercise.
Our Bell Restoration Fund was established in 1974 and the first grant of £75 was paid in 1978. With the support of TDGR ringers 112 grants totalling £135000 have been paid over the following 40 years. Over the years 4 new rings have been installed and 3 augmentations have taken place providing for 2 additional 10 bell towers and the 12 at our Cathedral. Now, in 2018 we have more than 900 ringers in 120 towers across our Eastern, Northern, Central and Western Districts.
Annie Holland (Guild President 2016 – 2019) & Ian Self (Guild Librarian)
TDGR Centenary Article
Published in the December 20/27 1996 issue of the Ringing World
On 8th October 1897 at a meeting chaired by the Diocesan Bishop and held in the Chapter Room of the Cathedral a resolution was passed “That it is desirable that a Guild of bellringers be formed in the Diocese of Truro”. Of the 30 people attending over half were clergy, and included well known ringers from across the Tamar, including Revd. G. F. Coleridge, Revd. F. E. Robinson, and Revd. Maitland Kelly, the Secretary of the Devon Guild. Amongst the laity were Dr. Symons from Penzance, and again from national ringing circles J. W. Washbrook, brothers A. E. and N. J. Pitstow, and A. W. Pike. Worthy of comment, perhaps, was the absence in any significant numbers of representatives of grass-roots bellringers. Just over one month later, on 9th November, the committee met with the Archdeacon of Cornwall in the Chair who, “in a very lucid address”, explained the object of having a Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers. The Precentor moved “That it is desirable to organise a Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers and that all existing bands or associations of Ringers in Cornwall be invited to become affiliated to the same”. Seconded by the Archdeacon of Bodmin, this was carried unanimously. The Revd. J. A. Kempe, who had been appointed convener of the committee at the original meeting, was elected Secretary & Treasurer, a position he was to hold for almost two decades during which he would have much influence on the development of the embryo Guild.
In drawing up a code of Rules it was agreed that the rules of the Devonshire Guild should be used for guidance, and these were considered one by one. The meeting had heard that there already existed two associations of Bell Ringers, the Tamar Valley Guild and the East Cornwall Association, to which some of the parishes of the Diocese belonged, and for the first but certainly not the last time the thorny question of Prize Ringing arose. In considering the Rule of the Devonshire Guild “That no member shall take part in any ringing match for Prizes”, a resolution was proposed by the Precentor “That this Guild is founded for the improvement of change and good round ringing and not for the encouragement of Prize ringing as generally understood”. This, and a further resolution “That all sets of Ringers who ring on Sundays (or other days) where there is a service, do attend that service”, were both lost by a small majority. Notwithstanding this, 11 rules were passed and instructions given that these, together with the rule and resolutions given above, he printed and distributed to each Incumbent to solicit their opinion. The secretary was instructed to call a meeting again in January and “to ask the Bishop if he would kindly preside and to arrange a time to suit his Lordship”. The Bishop’s diary was obviously full, as the next meeting took place with his Lordship in the chair on 23rd March 1898. The minutes record that after a lengthy discussion and very careful consideration a code of rules was finally drawn up, although the details are not recorded.
Over the next few years the embryo Guild began to develop and a number of the features with which we are familiar today were established. Although it was to be another 90 years before the post of Public Relations Officer was created, steps were taken to advertise the aims and objectives of the Guild in the local press and to the clergy via the Rural Deans. The latter were to be offered the services of a deputation to any Incumbent who would like to have the objects of the Guild brought before his ringers. The Bishop was asked to issue suitable prayers for use in the Belfry, and Ringers’ Festivals were held, the first at Veryan at Michaelmas 1898. At the Annual Meeting at Bodmin on Thursday 25th May the Secretary was authorised to expend £4 more in the instruction of bands (the instructor was named as Mr Myers — presumably of Plymouth), and the Balance Sheet showed a balance of £5.2.8d (£5.13p). Cardynham, Morval and Lanreath had applied for further instruction in the art of change-ringing. One cannot help but admire the instructor who, probably at the request of the clergy, was trying to introduce change-ringing to often unwilling pupils who probably didn’t even ring call-changes, rarely set their bells, and whose handling styles would have been unlikely to be suited to the task.
Not surprisingly, therefore, and despite the attractions of certificates and medals for those who mastered the new art, the draw of Prize Ringing was strong. In 1903 it is recorded that two bands, St Breward & Lanreath, had left the Guild because they chose to compete in Prize Ringing. The Guild, or its officers, had obviously adopted a hard line stance over this issue, and some clergy at least had regard for the pastoral situations that arose. Speaking at a committee meeting in 1910, Canon Bone emphasised the good-natured competitive element of the Festivals of the East Cornwall Association, and suggested that it might be possible to persuade them to give up money prizes. He proposed a system of classification which might be adopted and encouraged the meeting to take steps to remove the impression that the Guild stood for Change Ringing against Round Ringing. Canon Bone is recorded of being severely critical of the Secretary, Canon Kempe, who then proceeded to defend his position as servant of the Guild. Several other members spoke in his defence, recorded — by the Secretary — over the following three pages, and a vote of confidence was carried unanimously. Canon Bone continued to support a reconciliatory line in relationships with the East Cornwall Association, and informed the committee in 1911 that he would allow the association’s Annual Festival to be held at Lanhydrock in the following year. There can be little doubt that Canon Kempe had a strong personality, and took his duties and the enforcement of the rules seriously. He was Secretary of the Guild from its formation until his resignation on leaving the Diocese in 1915, at which point he nominated his successors as Secretary and Treasurer!
Philip J Tremain
(Guild Public Relations Officer at that time)
Photo copyright © Philip J Tremain 1996, used with permission.