About seventy members attended the annual meeting of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild at Basingstoke on Saturday week, the towers represented including Andover, Basingstoke (St. Michael's and All Saints'), Bishopstoke, Blackmoor, Bromley, Christchurch, Deane, Fareham, Kingsclere, North Stoneham, Overton, Oakley, Portsea, Ryde, Southampton, Sherfield-on-Loddon, Swanmore, Wickham, Winchester, Wonston, Wootton St. Lawrence, etc., and visitors from Aldershot, Buckland Newton, Godalming, Newbury, etc. During the morning ringing took place at the two Basingstoke churches, and the business meeting was held in the afternoon in Church Cottage.
The Master (Mr. G. Williams) presided, and, in the absence of the hon. treasurer, presented the accounts. The balance on the treasurer's account had increased to £79 8s. 2d., compared with £63 2s. 1d. in the previous year, the receipts from the districts having amounted to £54 9s. 11d. Grants from the General Purposes Fund amounting to £10 10s. had been made, and the balance in this fund was £55 3s. 9d. In addition the districts had in hand an aggregate of £63 19s. 8d. The Master said he thought this showed that the Guild was in a strong financial position.
In moving the adoption of the balance sheet, Mr. W. Barton said the sum of five guineas given to Godshill Restoration Fund was money well spent. Since the bells were done the Guild had given the Godshill ringers every support, and the local band rang a peal of Grandsire Doubles for the Jubilee. It was a great credit to them.- The accounts were adopted, and it was resolved to send a letter of congratulation to the Godshill band upon their success.
The report, which was also adopted, said subscriptions from members showed a further increase, and there were now 771 full members and 166 honorary members, almost half of the latter being in the Winchester District. The bells of Holy Rood, Southampton, Ringwood and Sherfield English had been rehung during the year by Messrs. J. Taylor and Co. (for which the Emma Barron Bell Trust was again to be thanked), as well as West Meon, by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank, and Godshill and Petersfield (also by Taylor and Co.). Thirty-seven peals were recorded in 1934, against 26 in 1933 (excluding the 1933 ringing tour), in 25 different towers, with twelve local conductors, compared with six the previous year. It was regretted that no peal was rung in the Andover, Basingstoke or Winchester Districts. It was felt that there were plenty of young ringers in these districts who would be glad to have the opportunity to take part in peals if properly organised. It was hoped, therefore, that the northern members would not let the late Mr. Harry White's enthusiasm that he put into the Guild die away for want of a successor. The new Alton and Petersfield District had completed its first year of existence and had amply justified its formation.
All the officers were re-elected, with the exception of the peals recorder (Mr. C. E. Bassett), who resigned on account of having undertaken duties as secretary of the Alton and Petersfield District. Mr. R. C. H. Connolly was appointed to succeed him.
The representatives on the Central Council were also re-elected, although one of them, Mr. George Pullinger, said it was an honour and experience which he thought should go round.
Three new honorary members were elected. Three places were proposed for the next annual meeting and Southampton selected by a narrow vote over Bournemouth, the meeting to be held on the first Saturday in July.
Reports were received from the Central Council representatives, and Mr. Pullinger made the suggestion that the Council should meet at an earlier hour in the day. Ringers, he said, came from all over England to attend the meeting, but many had to rush away before the end in order to get home the same night. If the Council met at 10 a.m. instead of 11 o'clock, more of the members could stay until the end of the business.
Mr. W. Barton, who commented on the usefulness of the Council and its importance to the Exercise, said the time might come when they would have to defend themselves against sections of the public who were trying to suppress all kinds of noise. When that time came the Council would be the body that could chiefly organise the defence of ringing. He added that the Council had officers and a Standing Committee of men of ability and integrity, who had the best interests of the Exercise at heart.
The reports were accepted and the representatives thanked for their attendance at the Council meeting and for their services.
A motion was put forward by the committee to regulate the management of the General Purposes Fund by providing that the income should be derived from life members' subscriptions and such funds as might be voted from the treasurer's account, and that the committee be empowered to make grants not exceeding five guineas.
In the course of a short discussion it was pointed out that the motion merely brought the rule concerning the fund into line with present procedure, except that the committee's powers to make grants were extended from two to five guineas.- The proposal was agreed to.
The hon. secretary (Mr. F. W. Rogers) presented a report on the result of a meeting held at Stockbridge to consider the question of rearranging the boundaries of the Winchester, Andover and Christchurch Districts, and the outcome was a recommendation that the towers of Over and Nether Wallop should be transferred from Andover to Winchester District. It now appeared that Over Wallop did not wish to transfer.
It was resolved to transfer Nether Wallop to the Winchester District.
A grant of five guineas was made towards the restoration of the bells of Alresford, where a scheme costing about £350 is to be undertaken, about £160 having already been raised locally.
A vote of sympathy with the relatives on the death of Mr. Ernest Bishop, a life member of the Guild, had been conveyed by the hon. secretary, and an acknowledgment was read.
The Master expressed pleasure at the presence of Mr. J. S. Goldsmith and the Rev. F. Ll. Edwards, and the meeting then terminated.
Afterwards the members attended service in St. Michael's Church, the Guild office being conducted by the Rector (the Rev. Canon Boustead). The preacher was the Rev F. Ll. Edwards, who took as his text the words, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." Referring to the occasions when the sound of the bells was used as an expression of public rejoicing, he spoke of the ringing for Sunday services and of the ringing on other occasions, remarking that it was a mistake to call one entirely sacred and the other entirely secular. It was a mistake to divide them into watertight compartments. They wanted the sacred to permeate the secular, and when the bells were rung on great occasions of national rejoicing it was a mistake to regard it as a secular use of the bells. Bells rung on such occasions as this were rung in the spirit of the text, bidding people rejoice in the Lord. Bells had a more definitely spiritual message on church festivals and on Sundays, and the point he wanted to impress was that it was always an expression of joy. He urged that the bells of the churches should be rung more generally than they are on Ascension Day. Whenever they rang on Sundays it was a message of joy bidding all Christian people rejoice in the Lord. Sunday had become, by law established, a day of rest, but there were many who forgot the sacredness of the day, and, while they availed themselves of the rest, they forgot that Sunday was also appointed as a day of worship, and it was only through that that it had become a day of rest. Whenever they rang the bells on the Lord's Day they were not simply ringing them to give notice of the hours of divine service, but were sending forth a message for all who heard to rejoice in the Lord and praise His holy Name. Two points of practical interest arose from that. It made it important that in every parish the bells should be rung at least once on every Sunday. He knew there were different practices in different parishes. Every Sunday was a feast day and every Sunday was the Lord's day and was a weekly commemoration of our Lord's resurrection. It was, therefore, right and proper that the bells should be rung on every Sunday in the year, and it was better to ring once on every Sunday than twice a day on alternate Sundays and not at all on the intervening Sunday. The other point was that bells were instruments of sacred music employed by the Church through long established tradition to express Christian joy and do honour to the Christian festivals. It was no argument on the part of those who objected to the sound of bells to say that in these days, when most people have clocks and watches, and indeed wireless sets, they did not need bells to tell them of the hours of service. There were several fallacies underlying that argument in any case, but the point was the bells were not used simply to notify the hours of service, but to send forth the message of joy and gladness in honour of the feast day, whether it be Sunday or any other feast day, on which services are being held. While people might know the hours of service and had facilities for knowing the time, the bells still had their duty to perform in proclaiming the message of joy. As ringers they rejoiced in the actual ringing, in the exercise of their art; they delighted in the physical and mental exercise as well as in the music which their art afforded, but let them rejoice above all else in the fact that they were called to high service in the church, that their part in the service of God was the sending forth of the grand and sonorous music of the church bells and that they were permitted to employ their powers of mind, body and spirit in the service of God for the good of His Church and for the glory of His Name.
After service the members sat down to tea. together in Church Cottage, and later in the evening, in addition to ringing again at the two Basingstoke churches, parties were made up to visit Bramley, Church Oakley, Deane and Sherborne St. John.
The Ringing World No. 1269, July 19th, 1935, page 458