Our bells rang out on Sunday 21st March 2004, celebrating ten years of ringing at St. Mary's.
1994: In the beginning!
Before our 'first ring', (Mothering Sunday 1994), about 15 of us from St. Mary's congregation - and two of the pupils from Warlingham School who had been involved with the installation - had spent months at local towers 'learning the ropes'! We were indebted to the many ringers from Merstham, Godstone and St John's in the Valley for giving up so much of their time to teach us all.
I was nominated to be Tower Captain although I had only started to ring in 1992. It was probably thought that I knew slightly more than the other beginners because I come from a 'bell-ringing family'. My mum rang for over 50 years as did my grandad and great-grandad. I have a newspaper cutting of a peal that my great-grandad rang in 1893. Four of my present relatives are also ringers.
During the summer of 1994, we were asked by the BBC if they could make a recording of us for the Radio 4 programme, "Bells on Sunday", (transmitted then at 6.30am with, apparently, an audience averaging six million listeners!). It was broadcast on the day of the Dedication of the Bells.
October 2nd 1994
Sunday October 2nd 1994 had been chosen for the service of Dedication of the Bells. The day began early with us listening to the St. Mary's bells on Radio 4 at 6.30am! We rang as usual at 9am, followed by the Harvest Festival Service. Later in the day, eight local ringers, all of whom had been very much involved with the installation, rang a celebratory peal of Cambridge Surprise Major which lasted nearly three hours - non-stop. They certainly deserved a long drink after that!
Later that day, we returned to St Mary's to join others in a packed church for the evening Dedication Service, officiated by the Archdeacon of Reigate, Ven. Peter Coombs. Quite a day!
Of the original band, six of us were still ringing regularly. During recent years, many ringers had moved away from Caterham to other parts of the country. So, at the end of 2002, we recruited four young ringers, then aged between 10 and 12 years and from our own congregation.
Learning to ring is not easy and our youngsters made really good progress - they came nearly every Friday evening (with the exception of the odd sleep-over!) and rang on Sunday mornings. We also welcomed another adult to our band, and one who, although not a ringer, took on the important job of steeple-keeper, responsible for maintenance, health and safety.
There was extra bell ringing in Surrey during the month of May, as the 'Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers' celebrated its 125th Anniversary. As part of the festivities, there was a special service at Southwark Cathedral and each church was asked to arrange some extra ringing during the 'Month of Celebration', to make sure that everyone would be involved in recognising the work of the Association and its achievements.
Another milestone: Our young ringers rang their first quarter peal - three quarters of an hour of continuous ringing involving huge concentration.
St. Mary's bell ringers encourage young ringers, as reported in the local paper. Unfortunately, most of our youngsters have now reached the age when they attend University and have had to leave the team. We are therefore looking to recruit more youngsters for training.
St. Mary's bells rang out a quarter peal to mark the formation of the Caterham F1 Team. See report here.
February 2004 - Tower Captain