An important decision was taken on Saturday [Nov. 13th] at the annual meeting of the Guildford District of the Winchester Diocesan Guild, when it was resolved to inaugurate a separate Guild of ringers for the new diocese of Guildford when it is finally formed.
Despite a drenching afternoon, the meeting was attended by representatives of most of the affiliated towers in the district, there being nearly 70 members present. Mr. W. Harrison, an honorary member, presided, and he was supported by Rev. Canon G. F. Coleridge, Admiral T. P. Walker, Major J. H. B. Hesse, Mr. G. Pullinger (general secretary of the Guild), Mr. E. Raddon (hon. secretary of the district), and Mr. C. Hazelden (district Ringing Master).
Although coming last on the agenda, the matter provoked a long and animated discussion.
The Chairman said they had to consider whether it was desirable to form a Guildford Diocesan Guild, when the diocese was formed, or whether they would continue with the dioceses of Winchester and Portsmouth under a new title. He did not think it was at all possible for the new diocese to be formed before next St. Swithin’s Day which was July 15th. He understood they were holding the annual meeting of the Winchester Diocesan Guild in Guildford some time before that date, so that he did not think it was at all incumbent upon them, unless they desired to do so, to take a binding vote that evening.
Mr. R. Whittington thereupon moved ‘that on the creation of the Guildford diocese, a Guildford Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers be formed, to take effect at the first annual meeting after the actual creation of the diocese.’- Mr. S. Radford seconded. No speeches were made by either the proposer or seconder, and Mr. J. S. Goldsmith moved as an amendment: ‘That this meeting of the Guildford District of the Winchester Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers is of opinion that a division of the diocese does not make desirable at present a division of the Winchester Diocesan Guild, and recommends that it be continued as a united body under a title to be hereafter decided upon.’ He said that while he agreed that ultimately a Guildford Diocesan Guild would become desirable, there was at present within the area too great a divergence of opinion on the subject, and they should wait until, by propaganda or otherwise, a greater unanimity prevailed. He pointed out that two years ago the York Town District, which would also come into the new diocese, had expressed an opinion against dividing from the Winchester Diocesan Guild, and they had also to recollect that a number of towers in the Leatherhead district were standing aloof. It would be better, he urged, to wait for a separate Guild, until they could be sure of bringing in the majority of the towers in the diocese, instead of running the risk of virtual failure by starting with a divided camp.
Mr. A. H. Pulling seconded the amendment. He said it would be a different matter if they could persuade the clergy to induce their ringers to come into the Guild, but they knew that the Surrey Association was doing good work in the county, that towers in the Leatherhead District preferred the Surrey Association to the Winchester Guild, while in the York Town District there was also a branch of the county organisation. York Town District was strongly in favour of staying with the Winchester Guild, and it was possible, if a change was forced, some of the towers would go over to the Surrey Association. He agreed with the opinion that they should wait until the new Bishop was appointed. If he wanted to have the ringers of the diocese under his own wing it would then be time to go on.
IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF RINGING.
Mr. J. J. Jones (who for many years was secretary of the Guildford District) said when the district was first formed they were told that they would be able to do nothing; and they did nothing for nearly six weeks (laughter), and then the towers came rolling in. The Guildford District had not only paid its way but had paid part of the expenses of the rest of the Guild. Since the year 1904 it had paid something like £200 to the central fund of the Guild, and if only half that sum had been spent in that district they would have ‘roped in’ all the six-bell towers, with a corresponding increase in the subscriptions. If they had no more new members, they would have 131 in that district alone to start the Guild with. When the Winchester Guild was started there were only 35 members. He believed a separate Guild would be in the best interest of ringing. If it was good for Church life to have a new diocese, it was good for bell ringing. If they could have a meeting once a month, they would keep their towers in better touch with the Guild and get more and better Sunday ringing. The time to start the new Guild was at the division of the diocese, so that they might catch the wave of enthusiasm which would inevitably arise.
Mr. W. Melville said when the new Bishop began to get his organisations together he would not be satisfied unless all the branches of Church work were diocesan in character. In the branch in which they were interested they had got plenty of enthusiasm as long as somebody else did the work (laughter). That branch would never be what it ought to be until everybody that was skilled in ringing put his shoulder to the wheel. He believed that if they formed a Guildford Diocesan Guild, starting with small things, in another ten years practically the whole of the towers in the Guildford Diocese would come into the Guild. If they formed the Guild they would have to find officers somewhere, and unless people were willing to do the work they would not get very far.
A COMPACT DIOCESE.
The Chairman pointed out that the proposed new diocese would be singularly fortunate in being such a compact area, and he could see no logical reason why the towers in the York Town area could object to coming into a Diocesan Guild. If it was for the best interests of ringing that a separate Guild should be formed, they could not take notice of those who would not listen to reason. There was a desire to-day on the part of incumbents to do what had long been necessary - to recognise bell ringing as an integral part of church work. How much easier it would be to band together in good fellowship in the new Guildford Diocese with its 142 parishes, compared with the present large diocese of Winchester. In a Guildford Diocesan Guild they would be brought much more closely in touch with each other.
Mr. G. Pullinger said the reason why the York Town District was not in favour of a Guild for the diocese of Guildford was that they did not think it would succeed at present. He had studied the question, and he thought the chances were all against it succeeding at present. Personally he would like to see the Guild carried on as it now was, with perhaps a reorganisation, and he suggested that in each of the dioceses a sub-committee should be formed with the object of fostering and developing the diocesan spirit among the ringers, so that when the position was favourable separate Guilds could be formed. He urged the members to approach the question cautiously and not be in too much haste.
Mr. C. Hazelden said nearly fifty years ago the Winchester Guild was formed by a little band of men who were of good spirit and had plenty of courage and faith. With these characteristics he urged the members to go forward with the formation of a Guild for the Guildford diocese. He was quite aware of the difficulties and that certain border towers might be tempted to remain outside, particularly if the threat were carried out to form a Hampshire County Association. He was aware also of the opposition in the York Town District and of the activity of the Surrey Association, and while some of the opposition might not be overcome in their lifetime, there were generations yet unborn, to whom Winchester would be but an historic fact. Their lives would centre in the diocese of Guildford.
Mr. Whittington said he loved the Winchester Guild and everything connected with it, but when the ecclesiastical authorities decided that a new diocese should be formed, he wanted to follow suit and have a new diocesan Guild. If they were on the wrong track in splitting the Guild, then those who decided on the splitting of the diocese were also on the wrong track. Everything connected with the Church was becoming more and more diocesan in character, and, although there were suggestions that county associations might be formed, county associations could not possibly be of the same standard as diocesan associations. He was prepared to admit that they would have sentiment and prejudice to deal with, but it would gradually wear out. If they did not start the new diocesan Guild now, the time would come when they would have to, and he was in favour of taking the bull by the horns. Mr. Pullinger had said it could never be a success. He would like to ask him if the Guildford District was not a success?
Mr. Pullinger: Certainly it is.
Mr. Whittington: Then why should not a Guildford Diocesan Guild be a success?
Mr. Pullinger: Because the Guildford District does not cover the diocese.
WHEN BUCKS WAS IN THE DIOCESE OF LINCOLN.
Canon Coleridge, pressed for his views as an ‘outsider,’ said he was reluctant to intervene, as he was not in the diocese of Winchester. The diocese of Oxford, to which he belonged, at present consisted of three counties and was bigger than the diocese of Winchester. It had 653 parishes. In 1836, Berkshire belonged to the diocese of Salisbury. In 1845, and before, Buckinghamshire belonged to the diocese of Lincoln, and if there had been diocesan ringing Guilds in those days he did not think Berkshire would have remained with the Salisbury Guild or Bucks with the Lincoln Guild when they were formed into a new diocese. He had no doubt whatever that when Guildford got its new Bishop he would want to get into touch with the associations of all kinds in the diocese, and he would like to feel he had under him a body of men like the ringers. He (the speaker) had not the slightest doubt in his own mind that it would be a very wise thing indeed to have a Guildford Diocesan Guild of Ringers co-terminus with the diocese of Guildford. They would be a compact body, and when they got things into a small compact body they expanded and went on well, but he would urge them, if he might, not to be in too great a hurry. Let them wait and see. When their new Bishop came they would see exactly how the land lay and would be able to make a very sound nucleus for a diocesan Guild.
After some further discussion, the amendment was put and defeated by a large majority, and the original resolution was carried nem. con.
Mr. Goldsmith pointed out that having taken this step the meeting could not let the matter rest where it was. Those who had opposed immediate action would loyally support the decision of the majority, and he urged them, having embarked upon the scheme, to do the job properly. Their first aim ought to be to gain the support of the York Town District, and he suggested the appointment of a small delegation to attend the annual meeting of the York Town District on the following Saturday to lay the Guildford District’s views before members there.
This was agreed to and a delegation appointed. A sub-committee was also appointed, with power to add to their number, to carry on any negotiations that might be necessary and to develop a scheme for the formation of the new Guild, which is to take effect from November next.
A HEALTHY DISTRICT.
Prior to the discussion, the customary business of the branch was transacted.
The hon. secretary’s report showed the district had maintained its strength and now comprised 21 honorary member, 131 full members, 10 probationers, and four compounding members. There was a balance in hand of £8 8s. 8d. Subscriptions had amounted to £19 11s., and the expenditure to £12.
The Ringing Master reported 18 peals, distributed among ten towers, rung since the last meeting. This was a lower total than in 1925, but he did not think the falling-off was greater than the average had been throughout the country. A feature of the work during the year had been the visits to outlying six-bell towers, twelve of which had been visited and help given to the local bands. This work it was hoped to continue during the coming year. The Ringing Master pointed out that it was becoming more and more customary in churches for the interval between the celebration of Holy Eucharist and the morning service on Sundays to be reduced to such an extent that ringing was not possible. Where that was the case he hoped bands would meet to ring for the Eucharist.
The reports of the Secretary and Ringing Master were adopted and the district officers re-elected en bloc, a follows: Hon. secretary, Mr. E. Raddon; Ringing Master, Mr. C. Hazelden; representatives on the Guild Central Committee, Messrs. Whittington and Jones. Thirteen new members were elected, including the whole of the band at Blackmoor.
The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to the chairman.
In the afternoon, the Guild’s form of service was conducted in Holy Trinity Church by the Rector (Rev. Canon E. C. Kirwan), and an address given by the Bishop of Guildford, who referred to opportunities which ringers had of service to God by the exercise of body, mind and soul, a combination of effort which few, if any, others were called upon to exert in the work they did in connection with the Church.
The Bishop and the Rector, through Canon Coleridge, sent their regrets at being unable to attend the subsequent tea and meeting, but they were heartily thanked for their respective parts in the service.
Owing to the fact that on that afternoon the funeral took place of the Vicar of one of the Guildford parishes, no general ringing was possible, only a half-muffled touch of Stedman Triples being rung for the service. As the ringers assembled, however, they were enabled to find kindly shelter from the rain through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Pulling who were warmly thanked for their courtesy and consideration. But for this many visitors would have had to spend the afternoon in the rain-drenched streets.
The Ringing World No. 817, November 19th, 1926, page 729 to 730