WINCHESTER GUILD RINGERS’ VISIT TO DUNSFOLD.
Dunsfold, which the Guildford District of the Winchester Diocesan Guild visited on Saturday [Aug. 27th], is a village nestling at the foot of the southern slopes of the North Downs, and possesses a church which to those who have an eye for its beauties, is a perfect gem. The present building dates from the middle of the thirteenth century, and its architecture is one of the purest specimens of ‘Decorated’ work in the county, if not in the country. The church is well away from the village itself, and overlooks a tributary of the River Arun. It was probably built by the Augustinian Canons, who had a house close at hand on the river bank. There is a fine chancel, with a ‘squint hole,’ and two glorious little transepts, while in the nave are many of the original bench ends, in which Dunsfold is richer than any other church in Surrey. Originally, doubtless, the building was bright with colours and small parts of the ancient frescoes are now uncovered. There is a complete list of the Rectors since 1294, and the present Rector produced for the inspection of the visitors the massive original key of the church, made probably out of iron mined near at hand, which dates from the time of his first predecessor. There can be few churches which still have in use a key which has done duty for more than six hundred years.
It is believed that the builders intended to complete the church by a central tower, but this part of the plan was never carried out. Instead, there is a small spire carried up over the roof at the west end and in this is housed a little ring of six bells. Originally there were three ancient castings, the oldest, which was badly cracked, being dated 1583, and founded by William Knight, of Reading. The other two were by the Eldridges, one of 1621, probably cast at Horsham and the other 1649, in all probability cast at Chertsey. The bell frame is carried on massive timbers carried up from the floor of the building and ringing is done in the church. For the inexperienced there is a rather long draught of rope.
Considering the fact that Dunsfold is a good four miles from a railway station, an attendance of five and twenty at this meeting, in the holiday and harvest season, was surprisingly good. Among the visitors was Mr. J. H. Shepherd, who made a special journey from Swindon to ring in his two thousand and umpteenth tower, and measure the two thousand and umpteenth tenor across which he has put his rule.
With the organist in attendance, the Guild service went with a swing, the familiar hymns being sung with great heartiness. The outstanding feature, however, was the Rector’s address. The Rev. A. E. Hollins is a ‘man’s parson,’ with broad views and sympathies, a keen cricketer, and, as he himself said, a bit of a bellringer. He had prepared no address, he said, and he frankly admitted that that afternoon he had wanted to play in a cricket match, but finding no other day was suitable for the meeting he had willingly agreed to the Guild’s visit, and he extended a warm welcome to Dunsfold. He briefly alluded to the historical interest of the church in which they were gathered, and said that they in Dunsfold delighted in the fact that their ringers really took their part in the services of the church. They did their work in the church itself, and were not shut away out of sight in a belfry. The Guild that day, he continued, had been unconsciously the cause of teaching a great lesson. That afternoon one of the parishioners had been buried, and at first among some of the people there had been some question as to the fitness of ringing the bells. It had given him the greatest opportunity of his life to bring home to his people the lesson of death, to point out to them that it was not the end of all things, but the beginning of a new and greater life, and that in his view it was fitting that the ringing of the bells should greet it. He had talked with the bereaved family about it, and they had seen it in the same light; indeed, they felt that the dead would rejoice to know that the bells were rung. For himself, he asked for nothing better than that, when his time came, he should be laid to rest to the sound of the bells merrily pealing.
Tea was afterwards served in the Rectory Coach House, and the Rector, who many years ago was a curate at Painswick, presided over the short business meeting, at which the district Ringing Master (Mr. A. C. Hazelden) said that, in view of the work which was being done in connection with organising the new Guildford Diocesan Guild, the six-bell practices had had to be suspended. It was hoped to resume them later on, for they had proved of real value, not only in assisting the six-bell bands but in helping to bring home to those in authority the need, if they would have an efficient Sunday service band, of doing something to help themselves.
Mr. J. S. Goldsmith gave a resume of what had been done up to the present in organising the new Guild, and asked for the support of the ringers and clergy in completing the arrangements. A preliminary meeting for that district was to be held at Guildford on October 1st, and for other districts on succeeding Saturdays, if possible, at Leatherhead, Chertsey and Farnham.
A vote of thanks was accorded to the Rector for the use of the bells, the service, and his address, to the organist, and to the sexton and his wife who had prepared the tea.
The ringing during the afternoon and evening included Grandsire and Stedman Doubles, Plain Bob, Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor.
The Ringing World No. 858, September 3rd, 1927, page 554