The Guild of Clerical Ringers head for West Suffolk….

For our 84th annual week’s ringing tour following Low Sunday, Sunday 16th April, Guild members and friends made this year for West Suffolk.  Over the space of a week, we rang in some twenty-five churches, mostly 6 and 8 bell peals. The two ten bell towers at Mildenhall (where we were accommodated) and Soham, were unfortunately restricted to ringing six bells only because of problems linked with tower stability. 

Travelling between churches, we encountered delightful countryside, with brick and flint houses, thatched cottages, and well-maintained village greens.  So many of the churches we visited were huge, housing much of historic interest and clearly built for larger church going communities.  We saw imposing pew ends, medieval fonts, and an endless number of flying angels or other figures high up above the clerestories set within impressive hammerbeam roofs.  It was interesting to note the impact of local families on the development of the churches with often a large and sometimes ostentatious memorial tomb in the corner of the church. The small features were worth seeking out too. In Walsham-le-willows, a small medallion from a maiden’s ‘crants’, a flower garland. It remembered Mary Boyce who died of a broken heart in 1685. The garland a symbol of her virginity. In Lakenheath, an array of wall paintings and some wonderful animal bench carvings including the Lakenheath tigress beguiled by a mirror so that the hunter takes her cubs… The tigress is humanity, the cubs are her soul, the mirror is worldly pleasure and the hunter… the devil.

Ringing at Lavenham was memorable, with its enormous tower, a vast ringing chamber and the village with its splendid array of half-timbered houses. We did our best to ring on the 21 cwt eight, Double Norwich and Yorkshire…along with a miscalled touch of Grandsire Triples.  We enjoyed at the start of the tour ringing on the 17cwt eight at St Mary’s, Ely, and by mid-week appreciated the light eight at St Leonard’s, Horringer.  We rang on the heavy eight at All Saints, Sudbury, where we nearly managed the standard eight-spliced before travelling onto Haverhill, All Saints, where we met up with one of our number, the Rev’d Max Drinkwater – the parish’s vicar, fully employed, unlike several of us retired or undertaking lighter duties and able to ring at our leisure. 

Overall, during our time in West Suffolk we rang a worthy range of methods, not too stretching and valued ringing bells where probably most of us had not visited previously to ring. A highlight for some of us was to join the evening practice at the Norman Tower, Bury St Edmunds, on their fine peal of twelve. 

During our time in the county, we also worshipped together at the end of the day, ate well, and drank a certain amount of the local beers.  In addition, the Guild’s AGM was held, the minutes of which can be found on the Guild website. Thank you very much to the tower correspondents or those who met us at all the churches where we rang and for making us most welcome.  Thanks too, to our secretary, the Rev’d David Everett, for making all the arrangements and planning the tour.  We look forward to the Guild’s post Low Sunday week’s tour in 2024 which we anticipate will take place in Devon.

The Guild of Clerical Ringers