Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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The Longborough ringers as identified by Stella:- Back row : T.Pethrick, A.Williams, S.Green,
Front row: A.Spragg, T.Williams, A.Partington.

Many years ago, I came across the photo above of six Longborough bellringers, taken in the early 1900's. I recognised two of them, (I had lived in Longborough when young, and learnt to ring there), but was curious about the other four. Later in 1997, I happened to see a framed FSG certificate, awarded to Arthur Williams on October 26th 1910, hanging in the sitting room of Cecil Williams, Arthur's son. I began to wonder if the two were related. Perhaps with some research, there might be material for an article for the FSG newsletter. However, the idea was then put on the back burner, but rekindled when I read in the RW (No. 5298, Nov. 9. 2012) about the Church Bell Ringers' Memorial Book, 1914-1918. This book records the names of ringers who died in WW1. Did any of the Longborough ringers die during WW1? And if so, were their names recorded in that book? And what was the occasion of the photograph of the Longborough ringers?

I have been able to establish the following about the 6 ringers.

Arthur John Williams

b. 20th January 1889, one of 14 children, d. 28th June 1977, aged 88; served in WW1 in 25th Reserve Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, was an instructor in India 1917-1919.

William Thomas Williams

b. 8th September 1887, older brother of Arthur, d. March 1971, aged 83. William, known as Thomas, and Arthur worked in the Longborough-based builders' firm, Thomas Williams, started by their father in 1886.

Sidney John Green

b. 1891, d. 1963, aged 71; he became the carpenter of the Sezincote estate, and the village undertaker.

Alfred John Partington

b. about 1886, a stone mason, according to the 1911 census; m. Constance Anne Taylor, 1913, had a daughter, Emily in 1914, and a son, Arnold in 1916; d. 16th August 1917, in Flanders. His wife, Constance, died in 1967, aged 80. His brother, Fred Partington, b. about 1887, also died in Flanders, 29th January 1918.

The photo names one ringer (front, left) as A.Spragg. This could have been either Albert Spragg or Alfred Spragg; both were living in Longborough at that time.

Albert Spragg

b. 1881, m. 1908, and had 2 daughters by 1911; enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment, 11th September 1915, d. 1967, aged 85.

Alfred Spragg

b. about 1891, younger brother of Albert, d. 12th October, 1916, in Salonika, serving in the Worcestershire Regiment.

Therefore, the A.Spragg in the photo must have been either 21 or 31, when, I believe, the photo was taken. The ringer in the photo looks more like someone aged 31 than 21, and is therefore more likely to be Albert Spragg, who survived the war.

Tom Pethrick

I can find no information about Tom Pethrick. A family of Pethricks lived at Banks Fee, Longborough, the father being a gardener at Banks Fee House. One son, Philip Algernon, b. about 1891, died in Flanders, in 1918, 3 weeks before the Armistice.

Why was this photograph taken? It must have been a special occasion. The ringers appear to be in their best clothes, outside the porch of St. James' Church, Longborough, their own church; and the back three are standing on a form so that they are clearly visible. So what was this occasion? A study of the recently discovered minute book of the FSG of Bell Ringers, could perhaps give the answer. On pages 6 and 7, there are details of the results of very first competition of the FSG, which took place on 26th October, 1910, at Moreton-in-Marsh. The Longborough band won the Call Changes section, which is confirmed by Arthur Williams' certificate. (photo. 2) Could the special photograph have been taken because of this first success? Perhaps, but there is a more likely possibility. For on April 25th, 1912, the half-yearly competition took place in Campden, and was now in four sections: Rising and Sinking, Round Ringing, Call Changes and Method Ringing. The results are given on page 17 of the minute book; the Longborough ringers won all four sections! Photo. 3 shows Sidney Green's certificate awarded after the competition (though for some reason Call Changes has been omitted from the certificate; perhaps someone else rang in this section, or the scribe accidentally missed it out). Surely this was the reason for the photograph, taken a few days later at their home tower, placing on record a magnificent achievement!

The photos are produced by kind permission of the following: This page; Elizabeth Woodward, grand-daughter of Arthur Williams. Photo 2. Nick Williams, grandson of Arthur Williams. Photo 3. Nigel Green, grandson of Sidney Green.

I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has further information about the Spraggs or Tom Pethrick, or about any other matter connected with this article.

Stella Southam (

Photo 2: the Striking Competition Certificate awarded to Mr Arthur Williams in October 1910. (This certificate is hugely historic, as it was awarded at the very first Striking Competition the FSG ever held. Ed.)

Photo 3: the Striking Competition Certificate awarded Mr Sidney Green, a member of the Longborough band, which came first in all the four ringing categories at the April 1912 Competition at Chipping Campden.