Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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'The FSG Challenge Shield'

I listened with great interest to Peter Bennett's account of him learning to ring at Wootton Wawen surrounded by certificates of the old Guild hanging on the walls (see Report of the Annual Dinner), as I, too, learnt to ring in a similar environment. There were four such certificates hanging on the wall at Ebrington then (there is only one now), and therefore, in the same way as Peter, my first contact with a ringing association was the Four Shires Guild. At that time Harry 'Chinny' Baker was still ringing there. He was an old-Guild member dating back to the early 1920s. Occasionally he might mention the Four Shires Guild (I probably asked about it) and very occasionally he might give it more than a mention, but little more. I did, however, hear just a mention of 'The Shield', but that it had disappeared. The next time something about this almost mythical shield popped up was when I rang at Moreton for the first time. Harry Baker was pointed out to me on the old photo of the Guild hanging in the Ringing Room. On it was The Shield (the photo of it here is an extract from that photo. This is the limit of enlargement before detail quality is affected).

The refounding of the Guild in 1973 brought the possessions of the old Guild into greater focus. Very happily the Spencer Jones Cup was discovered early on. Since then we have had the Old Minute book returned. What priceless treasures these two items are! The Challenge Shield (to use its full title) was the award given to the winners of the striking competition. The Old Minute Book provides sufficient material to allow its early history to be discovered. Sadly, the Shield remains lost. This is a great shame, as the Old Minute Book gives sufficient information to confirm the rumours that it was additionally a Memorial to Guild members killed in the Great War (WW1).

Extracts from the Old Minute Book:

29th April 1920 – The Sec raised the question of a new type of trophy to be competed for, and the Meeting resolved to refer the matter to the Committee for their consideration.'

24th September 1920 – ‘On the matter of a Trophy, the feeling of the meeting seemed to favour a Sheild (sic), and the Vicar of Campden kindly undertook to make enquiries as to the cost &c from the Guild of Art in Campden.’

27th October – ‘ The Rev G E Hitchcock produced the design of a Sheild (sic: again) which a previous committee meeting had requested him to obtain, with a view to adopting a Trophy of this pattern to be duly competed for at future meetings. It was on the proposition of Mr H Pitcher, seconded by the Secretary, resolved, that the design be adopted, it being left in the hands of the Chairman to arrange for the purchase thereof. It was decided to include the names of the fallen Ringers belonging to the Ilmington belfry on the Trophy.’

30th March 1921 – ‘Pro by Mr Pardon sec by Mr Bird that the Trophy be held by the Winning Tower at Blockley for the first 6 months, then the tower who won the highest number of points at the Spring & Autumn meetings combined, be allowed to hold the Challenge Sheild (sic: yet again) for the next 12 months. This was also agreed to, and the secretary was instructed to show the Trophy to the President and afterwards to have same on show in some prominent shop window in available Parishes prior to the Blockley meeting.’

30th April 1921 – ‘In accordance with the resolution passed by the Committee, the new Trophy which had been on exhibition at Moreton, Shipston, Campden & Blockley and had been much admired by the general public, was therefore presented to Shipston as being successful in obtaining the highest number of points on the days competition, to which Mr Bird duly responded. It was pro by Mr Bird, sec by Mr E Harris that the Trophy be insured. Carried unanimously.’

26th October 1921 – ‘Shipston being the highest was the presented with the Shield, to be held for the next 12 months.’

1st April 1922 – ‘The Secretary read correspondence regarding the insurance of the Trophy…’

2th April 1922 – ‘The question of insuring the Trophy was held over until the next meeting.’

25th October 1922 – ‘By request Mrs Rodwick presented the Trophy to the winning Team in a few congratulatory remarks, which was on their behalf briefly acknowledged by Mr A White, who said they were proud to have won it and would prize and revere it as long as they were enabled to hold it, and indeed would continue to do so even when forced to part with same.’

To be continued in the July Newsletter.