From the Bell Tower 2018

From the Bell Tower:  March 2018


I don’t often get political but in the light of the recent 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (6th February 1918) it occurred to me to investigate what, if anything Ryburgh had to do with the Suffragette movement. 

A trawl of the British Newspaper Archive produced no results at all specific to Ryburgh, so I widened the search to “Norfolk” which produced copious amounts of small-ad. references to property in Norfolk Square but a few others of local interest. None of these however emanated from our local press however but from “The Suffragette” newspaper itself. The first references were to the support by some local clergy, signatories to a letter sent to the Home Secretary expressing “unqualified abhorrence of the working of the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act”. Incumbents of Hunstanton, Lt. Plumstead, Edgefield, Sustead, Acle and Stibbard/Guist joined with clergy across the nation to protest in August 1913. I was pleased to see Stibbard's own Revd. Anthony Fenn (who has appeared before in these pages in his role as Chaplain to the Forces in WW1) making a stand. What a shame that Ryburgh’s F.H.Tatham didn’t share his views (at least not publicly!). 


On September 5th 1913 The Sufragette devoted a whole page to a sermon preached by the Rev. E.H. Taylor, in Sustead Church, on 10th. August 1913, just 2 days after the clergy’s letter above appeared in print. The Reverend gentleman didn’t pull any punches and he must have upset a good deal of the Establishment in the process. I  quote it all here which will leave you in no doubt just how strongly he felt:




A Sermon preached by the Rev. E. H. Taylor, in Sustead Church, Norfolk, on Sunday, August 10, 1913.

The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force.” Matt.xi,12.


Every great reform that has ever come into the world has come by the power of the sword, corruption has been driven from the kingdom by the violent who have taken it by force.

It has always been so. When the Jewish State became corrupt, and rulers made profit out of her corruption, the Prophets came; when the Jewish Church became corrupt, and priests made profit out of her corruption, Jesus came; in later days when States and Churches became corrupt, Reformers and Revivalists came, violent men, all of them, who by their violence expelled the corruption.

It has always been so, and it always must be so, because the entrance of any great reforms necessitates a condition of warfare, it raises a standard which divides those who fight under it from those who fight against it.

You know the conditions of warfare. First there are the standard-bearers leading the attack, they are the heroes, the superhuman men of history, men like Jesus and the Prophets. Then come their followers who win victory through the life and enthusiasm they have inspired. After the victory there is the fury of the defeated foe, of which we had an instance the other day when the Turks in their fight perpetrated atrocities upon every woman they could find.

Such are the conditions of warfare, and they are being reproduced now in all their grim reality in what is called the woman’s war.

For years past we have been gradually reaching a point where some entirely new force would be needed to drive out the corruption of our social life, to day the force has appeared, and so deeply rooted has this corruption become, that, unless the two sections of the community, the male and the female, join hands, it can never be expelled. Women are the standard-bearers of this new force, and the battle is raging between between those who fight under it and those who fight against it. Will this new force win? In my opinion it has won already, and the sufferings inflicted on the standard-bearers are due to the fury of the defeated foe.


I doubt if the standard-bearers of any cause have had to endure more violent and virulent opposition.Note the forces that have been out against them.

First there are the politicians. That this is no question of mere party politics is seen by the fact that, while one party has done its worst against them, the other party has stood by without a protest. Yes I must say that if the Conservative Party had been in power it would not have done the things that have been done. It would not have done them because it would not have dared to. Had it attempted even half of what the Liberal Party has done, every Liberal politician and every Liberal newspaper would have denounced it with all the eloquence they could command. Liberals advocate liberty when in Opposition, however much they may violate its principles when in power. No: this is no question of mere party politics. The truth is that the men of both parties know the standard-bearers of this force are bringing in a new order of things, which is to regenerate our political and social life. We have no great men in our political world to-day, no men, that is, of high integrity and lofty ideals. The men we have are little men, with the moral defects of little men. When mrs. pankhurst declared that the reason why the Government had attempted to suppress the SUFFRAGETTE newspaper was not because it had advocated militancy, but because it had pointed out the kind of legislation devised by the White Slave Traffic Act was futile – that effective legislation had first of all to deal with the customers, and that the first people to whom you must apply the Act were the members of the Government itself – you can easily see why it is that the standard-bearers of this new force have been treated by the men of our political world in the way they have.

They – the leaders of Society – have been against the standard-bearers. Of course they have. Could it be otherwise? Mrs Pankhurst’s words explain the reason.

Combined with these two forces against them there has been the force of the daily Press. All these women have said, all they have done, has been misrepresented and distorted. Surely what has been called the mendax infama of the Press has never sunk to a lower depth. But you know the reason. We have no free Press in England to-day. The Press to-day is governed by the political and social world, by the capitalist and financier, and its editors have to do what they are paid to do.

Last of all, the standard-bearers have had the Church against them. Here and there a few individual ministers may have come out in their defence. But what of that? The Church as a whole has not. Again you know the reason. An Established Church dare not go out against the leaders of the political and social world: her bishops and other officials have their own interests to think of. One longs for the grand old preachers of Nonconformity to be alive today! They were men who feared only God. Men of piety they were, who stood out for justice and righteousness in days of cruelty, oppression and lust. We have no such men to-day.

Now I would have you consider what it means for these standard-bearers to have had such forces against them. It means that cruelties and atrocities have been perpetrated that would be a disgrace to any Christian community. I will not enter into detail. I will not speak of what feeding by force means in its cruelty, nor of the cruelty involved by slowly torturing women to death by the process legalised by the recent Act of Parliament. Least of all will I speak of the species of argument used to defend it.

But I will say one thing. If John Bright were alive to-day he would denounce these atrocities in the name of God, and make our land ring from end to end in condemnation of the perpetrators, rousing the conscience of our democracy as it has never been roused before.

I will say another thing. Let a woman die under this process of slow death-torture and the verdict of posterity will be that she has been murdered and assassinated, and that her murderers and assassins have been traitors to the liberty of our great democracy.


I would say a word or two to these great standard-bearers themselves.

In the first place, all you have suffered and are suffering has taught you valuable lessons which you could learn in no other way. You have been taught the workings of our political parties, and you know now how to take the measure of our political men, and how much value to attach to their utterances. You have ben taught the workings of the Press, and you know enough of it not to be deceived by it in the future, whatever you may have been in the past. You have been taught many things besides. You know, for instance, the methods by which the police are governed, how justice is administered in our courts, and the way prisoners are treated in their prisons. All these things you know now. It is important you should, as you will be called upon to reform the institutions to which they relate. But you would never have believed the things you now know from mere hearsay. You have learned them from experience , and you are not likely to forget them.

Next never forget what the verdict of posterity will be on all this. You are passing through great and wonderful times, and your names will live long on the page of history as the violent who took the kingdom by force, as the drivers-out of its corruption, and as those who, at so infinite and great a cost to themselves, brought the new regenerating power into the world of social and political life. The world does not know yet, but it will then, and then your names will be on the lips of its children’s children through all the ages.

Lastly, I would say that even you standard-bearers are far from knowing as yet the real greatness of the work you are doing. You are too much engaged in fighting the actual battle to have time to think of the spiritual value of the sacrifice you make. Some day you will. But it will never be until the day when you will have passed beyond the veil and passed into the Presence of the Great Unseen.

One of you has already passed there, though her spirit is with you still. She knows fully now the greatness of it all, and in her own last words I would say to you, “Fight on. God will give the victory!

By the late 19th Century, women were beginning to take up bell ringing, able to do so because ringing is quite a dynastic enterprise and also because of the likes of those clergy represented above. It was in 1896 that Miss Alice White (of Basingstoke) was the first woman to complete a full peal. Of the two “elite” and historic ringing societies the SRCY and the ASCY, it was the former who first admitted a woman, Mrs. George Williams to join their ranks in 1898. Extraordinarily it wasn’t until 1998 that the ASCY followed suit! Needless to say belfries throughout the world could not thrive as they do without an equal input, indeed in some belfries our own included, men are in the minority.  Nevertheless, my usual entreaty to come and learn to ring bells is aimed at everyone! .







From the Bell Tower:  February 2018


It doesn’t seem possible, but the 1st World War will end 100 years ago this year. This thought was in my mind when we rang in the New Year, all those Ryburgh men and yet still so many more never to return in the coming year.  How fortunate we are today to be able to have the freedom to do such a thing.

New Year"s Eve in the Belfry

It may already have come to your attention that last year a peal of 8 bells was installed in the tower of St George’s Memorial Church at Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium finally completing the intent of the Knott family in 1927 of building a permanent memorial to their two sons killed in the fighting. Funds ran out and could only finance a small chime in the tower. The following photographs have been kindly supplied by Alan Regin

The 8 new bells with a 6 cwt. Tenor travelled from Taylor’s Foundry in Loughborough on the back of two WW1 lorries (a Thornycroft and a Dennis which both saw service during the War) for part of their journey and were dedicated at the church of St George in Ieper at the end of August.

They were blessed at a special service on October 22nd when they rang out for the first time. This was the culmination of the efforts of the Bells for the St George’s Ypres project, its trustees, and supporters — in particular Alan Regin, Steward of the Rolls of Honour of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR).

Alan Regin with the Ypres Bells at the John Taylor & Co Foundry in Loughborough

Alan has rung in two of our peals at Ryburgh and we would very much like to wish him many congratulations on his award of the M.B.E. in the New Year’s Honours’ List for his "services to campanology and its heritage". We look forward to welcoming him back again to participate in one of the 12 Commemorations that will take place this year which resume with the Spring Offensive on the Somme and first claimed the life of Albert Fox Codling in March 1918.

Further abroad in Norwich, but still pertinent to our WW1 peal series, St Peter Mancroft have finally begun their major restoration of the tower which will see them ringing higher up the tower at the level when their most historic ringing achievements were made. The space below which they will vacate is to be turned into a training belfry with a ring of purpose built simulators. This will allow training and ringing to take place at any time of the day or night with out having to abide by the conditions that understandably prevail between the work of the church and that of the Forum which is in such close proximity. In the nature of such things the project had been aimed at reopening in 2015 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the very first peal in English ringing which took place in the Mancroft tower. The main thing is that it is happening now.

At Ryburgh we have our own delays, as there is still a little further work to carry out on the roof, but it is definitely “getting there” as they say. So too, with funds for the Gas House, but it is intended to make a start in the Spring which is not far away. Meanwhile perhaps as the nights get lighter and the temperatures rise your thoughts might turn to having a go at bellringing as you had always said you must do, some day. That day could be a Tuesday or a Thursday at 7.30 and you will be most welcome


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Page last updated: Sunday February 11th 2018 1:45 PM