St Mary the Virgin Merton

      Diocese of Southwark, Church of England

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News from the Bell Tower


Summer 2007 was a busy time for the bellringers!

After ringing on and (mostly) off for many years, Bob Lawrence rang his first Quarter Peal on Sunday 13th May. This took about 45 minutes of non-stop ringing with 100% concentration, and is a great milestone for him! It has appeared in “The Ringing World”, the bellringer’s weekly national newspaper as follows:

Merton Park, Surrey (St Mary the Virgin) 13 May, 1260 Grandsire Doubles:
Peter Smith 1, Niki Tompkinson 2, Deborah Bishop 3, Tony Bishop 4,
Bill Day (C) 5, Robert Lawrence 6. First attempt = 6. Rung prior to Morning Service with the Bishop of Kingston and for the Surrey Association Quarter Peal Week.

Bellringers still work on the “old” counties, so we are in Surrey, and are members of the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers.

Later in the month we were (selfishly) sad to learn that Bill Day’s move to Dorset was finally going to take place. He retired from Merton College just before Christmas, and is fulfilling a long planned emigration from London. Bill has been leading us in the Bell Tower for many years, after succeeding Alan Bagworth. So in our normal fashion, we rang another quarter peal in his honour:

Merton Park, Surrey (St Mary the Virgin) 3 Jun, 1260 Plain Bob Doubles:
Jonathan Gray 1, Jane Marsters 2, Andrew Robinson 3, Niki Tompkinson 4,
Bill Day (C) 5, Peter Smith 6. 1 = First on treble. Prior to Evensong.
A farewell Quarter for Bill Day who is retiring to Wareham, Dorset after almost 25 years at Merton
and Tower Captain for the last 10 years. Bob Lawrence was our official photographer.

After our ringing, we all met up (with non-ringing other-halves) at Niki’s house to wish Bill and his wife Margaret well, and present them with a gift (an inscribed bell!) and our appreciation.

On 16th June we welcomed some visiting bellringers from King’s Langley in Hertfordshire. Since the tram line opened, we have probably had two bands of visiting ringers each year who do a “tram outing”. This involves ringing at Merton Park, Mitcham, Croydon, Addington and Beckenham – all churches with bells conveniently linked by the network!

In the afternoon, we had a local band ringing for a wedding at 2pm. At Merton, we ring both before and after each wedding, which is slightly unusual these days (each wedding takes up 2 hours of our time), but it does seem to add something to the setting and makes the special day even more memorable!

Incidentally, we also ring before the 9:30am Sunday service (or 10am, which keeps catching us out!) and the 6:30pm service – we’re one of the few towers in the county that still rings on a Sunday evening.

On 17th June, Tom Leary’s final Sunday at St Mary’s, we rang a quarter peal immediately before the morning service:

Merton Park, Surrey (St Mary the Virgin) 17 Jun, 1260 Grandsire Doubles:
Peter Smith 1, Chris Stanley 2, Jessica Milligan 3, Andrew Robinson 4,
Niki Tompkinson (C) 5, Jonathan Gray 6. Prior to All Age Eucharist & to mark the retirement of Tom Leary,
vicar of Merton for 15 years, and after 40 years of ministry.

So in a matter of two weeks, we lost our Tower Captain AND the Vicar.
I’m reminded of what Lady Bracknell said in “The Importance of being Ernest”…!

Since them, we’ve regrouped, and now have the following responsibilities:

Tower Captain Niki Tompkinson
Tower Correspondent Andrew Robinson
Steeple-Keeper Peter Smith

We are still relatively small in number, but are lucky to have a number of stalwarts, and good relations with local towers at Wimbledon, Colliers Wood and Tooting. Our youngest new recruit is Liam Carroll, who is progressing rapidly in leaps and bounds. We know of a number of parishioners have rung in the past – you’re always welcome to come back – it’s just like riding a bike!

Andrew Robinson

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