BY THE REV. C. E. MATTHEWS, MASTER OF THE WINCHESTER DIOCESAN GUILD.
It must be evident to many who can review the past quarter of a century that there has not only been a complete revival in the noble art of change ringing, but also a wonderful improvement in the position and general tone of ringers. Our Ringing Guilds and Associations have been largely responsible for these things. Thirty years ago and more the ringers were frequently the roughest set of men in many a parish. In most cases they were not to blame, for little or no interest was taken in their welfare by the ecclesiastical authorities, the bells went badly, the belfry was so untidy that it almost ceased to be regarded as part of God’s House. The incumbent never visited the ringing chamber, and had no idea what went on there. On Sundays those who called the parishioners to worship seldom remained to worship themselves.
Belfry reform, however, has not been forgotten during the period wherein the Church has been reforming herself from the days of the Oxford movement onwards. It has been a gradual, possibly a slow, process, but it is now an accomplished fact, and many of our belfries are as well kept and as reverently treated as our vestries. For all this we may be really thankful. I am quite sure, however, that many have yet to learn that the church bells are instruments provided and intended to be used, for God’s glory, and not for personal advertisement or breaking records.
It is one thing to have mastered all the intricacies of difficult methods, and to be able to get a band together who can strike accurately (all honour to those who succeed in doing so), but it is quite another thing to dedicate such mental and physical accomplishments as acts of service and devotion to the Church of Christ. How many members of our change ringing societies pride themselves upon such membership, and such records, and possibly forget that they are members of the Church first, and ringers afterwards? I recognise fully the splendid services of our church ringers. I know well that self-sacrifice, personal inconvenience and patience are manifested constantly; and it goes without saying that where you have a band who can ring well and where harmony prevails, you will find the best tone, and belfry rules are superfluous.
We clergy in these days like to regard our ringers as real church workers - “a band of men whose hearts God has touched.” The Church of England Men’s Society affords every ringer the opportunity of rising to the position of the church worker. He is quite as important and as useful as the choirman, but he does not always and everywhere realise and recognise his high office. We want every ringer to understand that he is a part of the Body of Christ, willing and ready to take his share in the work of the Church in his parish, to remember that change ringing is not a record breaking hobby, that peals of 5,000 and more changes (most admirable, useful and necessary for the cultivation of the Art) are but means to an end. That end is the most skilful handling of the instruments which gives sound in the towers of our parish churches, and the dedication of powers and faculties to Him Who gave them.
The Ringing World No. 12, June 9th, 1911, page 192
Founded on June 26th, 1879, the Winchester Diocesan Guild has fulfilled the objects for which it was called into existence, viz.:- (i) the recognition of the true position of ringers as church officials; (ii) the due care and use of church bells and belfries; and (iii) the cultivation of change ringing. In so extensive a diocese as that of Winchester, embracing a large portion of Surrey and the whole of Hampshire, and stretching from Thames Ditton to Bournemouth, with the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, it is no easy task for the officials of the Guild to keep in touch with the eight districts. It is one of those dioceses which sorely needs sub-division. If the present Master cannot rank as a change ringer, as that term is accepted by the Exercise, he has worked indefatigably in promoting the best interests of the society, and is well known and highly esteemed amongst ringers in most of the affiliated towers.
The Rev. Charles E. Matthews was born at Elstead, Surrey, in 1863, and educated at University College, Durham, where he took the license in theology in 1886; and afterwards at Salisbury Theological College. He was ordained deacon in 1887 by the Bishop of Colchester, and priest the following year by the Bishop of St. Albans; he was licensed to the curacy of North Weald Bassett in 1887. While there he learnt to handle a bell rope, and the peal of six was rehung. In his second curacy at Ospringe, Kent, under the late Canon Griffin, he was mainly instrumental in encouraging the parishioners to erect a peal of eight bells, by Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, tenor 17¼ cwt., which were dedicated on St. Thomas’ Day, 1891; Mr. Matthews himself giving the improved Ellacombe chiming apparatus, and organising the band of ringers.
On the death of his Vicar he migrated to Shere, Surrey, in April, 1894, and was shortly called upon to act as hon. secretary to the Restoration Committee of that ancient parish church. The bells - a peal of six - were almost unringable; and were included in the general restoration scheme. Messrs. Mears and Stainbank supplied a new oak frame, recast the tenor and added two trebles, Mr. Matthews taking the foreman of the local band to the Whitechapel foundry to see the work of casting. He also presented an Ellacombe chiming apparatus to the tower, and rang the tenor to the first peal brought round on the augmented bells on May 30th, 1896.
From 1896 to 1899 Mr. Matthews was curate of Hursley, near Winchester, and was presented to the living of Bursledon, Hants, by Winchester College, in 1899. He became Vicar of Titchfield in the same county, in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester, in September, 1907. Here there is a very musical ring of six, tenor 12 cwt. 0 qrs. 21 lbs., and a most efficient company (including two ladies), who can ring several Minor methods, and who are always in the belfry on duty before matins and evensong on Sundays - a band of which any incumbent may be justly proud.
At the annual festival of the Guild at Christchurch, Hants, on July 1st, 1895, Mr. Matthews was elected hon. secretary and treasurer. During the eight years he fulfilled these combined offices he only missed one quarterly meeting of the Guild, and raised its funds from £63 9s. 10d. to £128 12s. 8d. On the promotion of the Rev. R. C. M. Harvey to the Vicarage of Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1903, the Rev. C. E. Matthews was unanimously elected to succeed him as Master, and has continued to fill that office up to the present time. He has been a member of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers since 1896, and was instrumental in obtaining the sanction of the Bishop of Diocese for the use of a special service at ringers’ meetings. For this service, also, he compiled a hymn - “The Sacred Bells of England” - which is always sung at the Guild’s annual festival, as well as at many of the district meeting services. Mr. Matthews’ advice is often sought by and readily given to incumbents as to rehanging and restoration of peals in the diocese, while, as is perhaps only natural, he is also frequently appealed to by the clergy on matters concerning belfry rules, etc. While ever ready to give help, Mr. Matthews always points out that the control of the bells is vested by law in the incumbent, and he does not believe in the Guild interfering or coming between vicars and their ringers. For some years past he has been collecting information concerning the church bells of Hampshire, which he hopes to complete and publish in the future.
During his term of office as honorary secretary the Guild was divided into districts, a step which greatly extended interest in the organisation, the Guild being now one of the strongest in the country.
The Ringing World No. 20, August 4th, 1911, page 329
RINGER AS CHAPLAIN OF FORCES.
The Rev. C. E. Matthews, Vicar of Titchfield, Hants, and Master of the Winchester Diocesan Guild, who has been for 13½ years chaplain to the 5th Hants Regiment at Southampton, has been appointed Senior Chaplain to the Hants Territorial Infantry Brigade. He is now serving with the Brigade, and has volunteered for foreign service. Among ringers, the Rev. C. E. Matthews’ name will ever be associated with that stirring ringers’ hymn, which he composed for the Winchester Guild, but which has become familiar in a far wider field:-
“The sacred Bells of England,
How gloriously they ring!
From ancient tower and steeple,
For cottager, for king.”
The Ringing World No. 181, September 4th, 1914, page 139
The Rev. C. E. Matthews, Vicar of Titchfield, and Master of the Winchester Guild, who for some years has been a Chaplain of the Territorial Forces, and, at the commencement of the present mobilisation, was connected with the 4th Hants Brigade, has been appointed Brigade Chaplain to the 2nd Thames and Medway Infantry Reserve Brigade, in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. The appointment dates from October 27th last. The Rev. C. E. Matthews began duty at Sheppey on October 12th.
The Ringing World No. 193, November 27th, 1914, page 287
The following notice has appeared in the “London Gazette”:-
Chaplain’s Department of the Territorial Force: Rev. Charles E. Matthews, 3rd Class Chaplain, to be 2nd Class Chaplain (Mar. 16th).
The Rev. C. E. Matthews, who is the popular Master of the Winchester Diocesan Guild and Vicar of Titchfield, Hants, has been senior chaplain to the 7th Division, 13th corps, since October, 1915, and will complete a year’s service with the troops at the front on the 30th inst. When serving at home he is Chaplain to the 5th Hants Regiment, whose headquarters are at Southampton. Ringers will join in congratulating the Winchester Guild Master upon this further promotion.
The Ringing World No. 267, April 28th, 1916, page 187
AN ACTIVE WORKER FOR RINGING.
We have to announce, with deep regret, the death of the Rev. C. E. Matthews, vice-president of the Winchester Diocesan Guild, who passed away on Friday evening at the age of 63 years. He was appointed hon. secretary and treasurer of the Guild in 1895, and occupied these joint offices for eight years, during which time he missed only one quarterly meeting, and saw the funds of the Guild raised from £63 to £128. It was while he was hon. secretary, also, that the Guild was divided into districts - a step which greatly extended the activities of, and interest in, the organisation.
In 1903, he was elected to succeed the Rev. R. C. M. Harvey as Master, which post he held until he was appointed to the chief executive office of the Guild, viz., vice-president.
Born at Elstead, Surrey, in 1863, the Rev. C. E. Matthews was educated at University College, Durham, and Salisbury Theological College. He was ordained deacon in 1887 by the Bishop of Colchester, and priest in the following year by the Bishop of St. Albans. He was licensed to the curacy of North Weald Bassett in 1887, and there learned to handle a bell. Afterwards he was at Ospringe, Kent; Shere, Surrey; and Hursley, near Winchester. He was presented to the living of Bursledon by Winchester College in 1899. He became Vicar of Titchfield in 1907, and a few years ago moved to Milton, near Lymington.
Wherever he has been he has actively taken part in schemes for restoring or increasing the rings of bells, and, being deeply interested in the archæological side of bells, he was largely responsible for the Church Bell History of Hampshire. He was a writer of ringers’ hymns, one of the best known of which is ‘The Sacred Bells of England.’
Although not a great ringer, he was exceedingly keen on promoting the interests of the art and furthering the objects of the Winchester Guild, which he represented continuously on the Central Council from 1906.
Last year Mr. Matthews had a long and serious illness, from which he never really fully recovered, and his death will be a great loss to the Winchester Diocesan Guild, with which he was so long and so intimately connected.
The Ringing World No. 830, February 18th, 1927, page 105
The funeral of Rev. C. E. Matthews, R.D., whose death was reported in last week’s issue, took place at Milford-on-Sea, Hants, on Tuesday afternoon, February 15th. A large congregation attended, being representative of all classes. The Winchester Diocesan Guild of Ringers was represented by Messrs. G. Williams (Master), G. Pullinger (hon. secretary), G. Preston (Christchurch District secretary), J. Elkins, W. Andrews (Winchester Cathedral) and E. Elliott (Lymington).
There was a large number of beautiful floral tributes, including wreaths from the Winchester Diocesan Guild, Winchester Cathedral bellringers, and Milford-on-Sea bellringers.
After the service, 120 Grandsire Doubles with the bells half-muffled was rung by the following: J. W. Elkins 1, G. Pullinger 2, G. Williams 3, W. Andrews 4, G. Preston 5; and rounds by the local ringers. During the evening a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters (1,295 changes) with the bells half-muffled was rung at Christchurch Priory by Miss C. Sparshott 1, E. Hinton 2, A. Wooff 3, A. F. Martin Stewart 4, Mrs. E. Williams 5, G. Scragg 6, F. Sparshott 7, W. Fowler 8, G. Preston (conductor) 9, H. Gillard 10, followed by the whole pull and stand 63 times.
A quarter-peal was attempted the same evening at Winchester Cathedral, but came to grief. This was followed by the whole pull and stand 63 times.
In addition to the particulars given last week, it may be mentioned that Mr. Matthews took part in one peal, which was Grandsire Triples, at Shere, Surrey, on May 30th, 1896. He was also a member of the Winchester Diocesan Advisory Committee for the granting of faculties.
The Ringing World No. 831, February 25th, 1927, page 118
HIS WAR SERVICE RECALLED.
To the Editor.
Dear Sir,- I wonder if it is known generally that the late Rev. C. E. Matthews served overseas with H.M. Forces during the Great War? It was during his days as Vicar of Titchfield, when I was learning to ring, that we used to visit his tower weekly for practices, and, as beginners, we were always welcomed by his very genial smile. The Great War came upon us like a thunderbolt, and ringing was forgotten when we took up fighting. Having got a bad ‘packet’ on the French Front, and passing the various field hospitals, I found myself at Hazebrouck in 1915 with a leg that looked like being amputated, till a visit from the padre, our late vice-president, started further negotiations, and it is due to his handling of the doctors on my behalf that I am fortunate enough to have two legs today. I lay there some ten days until moved to England in a pretty bad state, but always cheered by the visits of the padre, his kindly smile, and talks on ringing and better times to come. When fit to travel, it was he again who saw me off on the journey to England, to meet again after the war at our Winchester Guild meetings. What a debt I owe to him!
The Ringing World No. 832, March 4th, 1927, page 135