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The Bellringers Strike

A depiction of eighteenth century ringers.

On 25 October 1878 the following letter appeared in the Tavistock Gazette:

Sir - We do not often hear of strikes amongst ringers, more especially those who ring out such merry peals from the belfries of our country parish churches; but wonders never cease and it will surprise many of your readers to be informed that the ringers of the bells at St Andrew’s Parish Church at Calstock are out on strike, with at present little or no hope of an amiable settlement. For many years past a ringers’ feast has been held at the commencement of November, to defray the expense of which the Rector as well as other gentlemen in the parish hitherto have liberally subscribed, but unfortunately this year the subscriptions were very small.

Therefore, on Sunday last, they refused to perform their much loved task. It may not however, be quite just on the part of the ringers, to suspend ringing in consequence of such a trivial matter, knowing as they well do, there are gentlemen in the parish who are always ready to support them. Let the ringers well consider the matter, and on Sunday next, resume their ringing, and thus show the public that they do not ring for any little benefit that may accrue therefrom, but from a love of the art of ringing and a desire to administer to the pleasure of their fellow men. – Yours etc An Inhabitant.

Although the story appeared in a number of local newspapers, unfortunately none appear to note when the ringers resumed their efforts.

Differences of opinion between ringers and church members are a recurring issue and such stories can be found in the pages of many past newspapers. From 1878 - 79 ringers from Lanchester Church, Consett struck for 18 months. It was alleged that the ringers had been playing cards in the belfry and as a result the door was locked against them and the key could only be obtained on application. They preferred to strike rather than ask permission to enter the tower. Wages caused strikes in Leamington Spa in 1874 and Shipley in 1880 where ringers wanted an increase from £3 5s to £3 10s per annum and also at Ilmington in 1916 when the Rector reduced rates of pay. But it was the failure to be invited on an outing that brought the ringers of All Saints Church, Freshwater out in 1913, their place was taken by a mechanical arrangement which the vicar had installed during a previous strike.

Sources: Western Daily Press, Birmingham Daily Gazette, Dundee Courier, Bridlington Free Press, Tavistock Gazette


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