Real character whose fame rings through the decades

Bert Gogle, Nolan Golden and Arthur Bason ringing the St Peter Mancroft bells half a century or so a

Bert Gogle, Nolan Golden and Arthur Bason ringing the St Peter Mancroft bells half a century or so ago. - Credit: Archant

The brazen lips of the bells have tolled for the dead, warned of invasion and proclaimed events. They have flung out laughter and joy for a new monarch, for feasts, for victories and happy occasions.

A sketch of the St Peter Mancroft ringers drinking from their jug on a New Year’s Eve in 1872.

A sketch of the St Peter Mancroft ringers drinking from their jug on a New Year’s Eve in 1872. - Credit: Archant

They have shouted in triumph when wars have ended. They are part of our heritage to be preserved for future generations.

Church bells are all too often taken for granted. But now there is a book which tells the extraordinary story of the bells at one magnificent church in the heart of Norwich. St Peter Mancroft, founded between 1071 and 1075 by Ralph de Guader, Earl of Norfolk.

The very first true peal rung anywhere in the world was rung at St Peter Mancroft in 1715. This was a major advance in change-ringing and involved more than three hours of continuous ringing.

'Next year, on May 2, will be the 300th anniversary of this remarkable achievement and we want as many bells as possible to ring out in celebration,' said the author of a new book The Bells Told, Maureen Cubitt, who has been a ringer since 1960 and met her husband David through ringing.

The St Peter Mancroft bell-ringers in 1883.

The St Peter Mancroft bell-ringers in 1883. - Credit: Archant


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They share an interest in historical research and this book – which is in the premier league when it comes to local history offerings – began as a series of short stories in the parish magazine about the early ringers at Mancroft.

And every penny from the sales will be put to good use.

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Maureen explains: 'It is impossible to teach new ringers at Mancroft because of the long draught of rope, so we have a plan to return the floor of the ringing chamber to where it used to be in the 18th century thus creating a room below to be used as a heritage and teaching centre. We hope to install eight dumb bells there linked to computers.'

The bell ringers at Mancroft, one of the finest medieval churches in England, have much to celebrate and the ringers are among the best in the country, and respected across the land.

This book, containing some rare illustrations and photographs drawn, painted and taken over the centuries, traces the history of the ringers, the role they played in city life... and looks to the future.

What makes it so special are the stories behind the former ringers: their ambitions, relationships, adventures, social life, successes and failures. And the rivalry between themselves and ringers from other towers.

Members of the St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers today have their stories too, which makes the book all the more fascinating.

It is their vibrancy, enthusiasm, effort and commitment which makes ringing at Mancroft so important and will surely encourage more of us to take an interest in ringing, past, present and future.

'Norwich is a centre of tourism and St Peter Mancroft is in the heart of the city. Our bells are known internationally in the ringing world, so we want to develop an out-reach programme to publicise the heritage, knowledge and skills of bell ringing to the general public as well as to ringers and to make our tower welcoming,' said Maureen.

The book is just one way of trying to raise money for Appeal300, the bell ringing project which will cost £380,000 and the book will be launched at two forthcoming events which you are invited to: On Friday November 28 at a coffee and cakes morning in the Octagon next to the church, and on Monday December 1 all day at The Forum.

The book will also be on sale at the book stall in the church.

Maureen can be contacted via www.mancroftbells.co.uk

The Bells Told: The Story of Ringers and Ringing at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, by Maureen Cubitt has been published with support from Heart and the Harry Watson Bursary at £10.

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