Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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An Old Guild badge donated to the Guild's Archives

The Guild is fortunate to have been given an 'Old' Guild badge for its archive. It was donated by Hazel Davies. It used to belong to Wootton Wawen ringer, Jim Stockley. Here is the badge:

The hook at the top is likely to be the loop that originally attached a watch chain to the badge, in similar style to the badge that belongs to Phyllis Brazier. It's been bent round into a hook, possibly to hang the badge on something.

Wootton Wawen tower was relatively early joining the Guild. There are FSG Ringing Competition certificates in existence that show Wootton Wawen members took part in these activities.

I asked Hazel if she could provide some words about Jim Stockley. She has kindly written the following:-

I inherited this old Four Shires Badge from my husband Graham's Great Uncle Jim Stockley following his death in his mid nineties.

Jim rang at Wootton Wawen most of his life and was captain there in the sixties. During those years he taught many people to handle a bell including myself. He was never a great method ringer; however he was an excellent tenor man and rang the tenor to many quarter peals and several peals at Wootton.

He also showed us that there was much more to ringing than just your own tower. He took us to ringing meetings on the back of his old Sunbeam motor bike, shaft driven. He also showed us that supporting other towers was important —especially Aston Cantlow where we used to ring for Evensong for many years. Chris Pickford especially remembers that after this Sunday evening ringing several of us would chat for ages at the lych-gate about all sorts of things.

He was a good tower captain, always on time and courteous to all. He welcomed visitors and was a lovely man with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye. He was a chain smoker of 'Woodbines', which gave rise to us being "permitted" to smoke in the belfry, as it had external door access.

I remember Jim telling us about the Four Shires Ringing Competitions that took place before the war. As many of you know there is a Four Shires Peal Board in the belfry at Wootton, however it does not have his name on it.

This photo of the band for his 90th peal shows from left to right Peter Bennett, Jill Danby, Jim, Michael Gray. Hazel Davies, Chris Pickford.

Some Ilmington ringers may remember him from the late sixties when he and I came to Ilmington to help the band teach some young recruits how to handle a bell. Some of the learners were so small that we stood them on piles of boxes. How Health & Safety would love that now.

Jim was also very keen on tune ringing on handbells, as Wootton had its own set of bells. We used to practice at his house and then have a wonderful time at Christmas ringing in as many homes as possible, but not pubs I recall. We didn't need to visit the pubs because we were always well supplied with refreshments at our hosts. I remember that as the evenings wore on the ringing was not quite so precise, Jim always rang the two heaviest bells and sometimes he had to have a nudge when it was his time to ring.

A peal was rung for his 90th birthday of Cambridge S Minor on 23 April 1994, 1. Michael Gray, 2. Hazel Davies, 3. Richard Danby, 4. Jill Danby, 5. Peter Bennett, and 6. Chris Pickford. Footnote "by past members of the local band to celebrate the 90th birthday of Jim Stockley"

Jim sat outside to listen to the ringing and lit up one of his favourite cigarettes in Graham's 'non smoking car' and much to our amusement Graham didn't have the nerve to stop him.

He is remembered with great affection, particularly by the band above, some of whom owe him a great debt of thanks not only for introducing us to ringing but for encouraging us to embrace the wider bell ringing community.

Hazel Davies