Fred Hopper

10/1/1879 - 1963

Born in Olney to Jared and Sarah Hopper of East Street, Fred was reported as aged 13 in the 1891 census. His father was a shoemaker, he then had a sister and three brothers, two of whom were already in the shoe trade. His mother looks to have died in 1891 aged 49.

The first reference found to Fred’s ringing is in the Bell News of 1896, when he was reported to have rung the treble to a touch of Grandsire Doubles at Earls Barton on the annual Olney ringers’ charabanc outing. Back at home he rang the treble to a 720 of Plain Bob Minor on September 3 and his first 720 inside on December 10. The Olney ringers rang a lot at Emberton, 2 miles along the road, Lavendon and Turvey. His first reported peal seems to have been 7-minor methods rung for his birthday on January 10, 1903 at Emberton for the Bedfordshire Association but not claimed as such and indeed there is a failed peal of Grandsire Caters at St Giles', Northampton recorded for 1902! However 720s and date touches were the mainstay of the Olney ringers.

It is reasonable to surmise that his skills in shoe-making gained from his father would have led him the 11 miles to Northampton. The first mention of his ringing in the town was of conducting a 168 of Grandsire Triples at Holy Sepulchre in June 1899 and a 720 of Bob Minor at St Edmunds in December.

The 1901 census shows him living with his brother George in Northampton. An advertisement appeared in the Bell News in1901: Situation wanted by young man with good character as salesman in boot shop, would fill up time at repairs. Change-ringer on six or eight bells. Apply, F Hopper, 129, Lutterworth Road, Northampton. Whatever this brought forth, by 1901 he was foreman of St Giles, a post he retained until he retired in 1913 with much praise from ringers and church at a presentation evening. Under his foremanship a band developed to ring Double Norwich Major, Grandsire and then Stedman Caters such that a town band could ring successful peals.

From 1907 -1925 he was active in ringing around the villages, and rang in the first peal on the bells at Kingsthorpe, Litchborough, Kislingbury, Weedon, Easton Neston and Towcester. In 1919 Fred wrote to The Ringing World claiming a record, having rung in 140 of the 182 towers in the county. Fred’s interest in surprise major ringing was developing from an early start in 1904 with Superlative the local favourite and London by 1918 and Bristol in 1922. In 1920 his ten-bell ringing developed through Plain Bob and Kent to Cambridge. Fred travelled as far as Leighton Buzzard and Woolwich to ring peals to develop these advances. By 1922 he had rung 100 peals for the CNA.

The 1911 census shows Fred living with his wife Mary Ada at 40 New Town Road with children: Amy, Ellen and John William. From 1911 he rang a great deal with the Towcester & District Association and acted as mentor to ringers at the new eight at Easton Neston. He took part in the great cycling outing from Northampton to Aynho and back in 1913, described in the biography of Thomas Law below.

In 1919 he was elected President of the Central Northamptonshire Association (CNA), the same year that he, Bro F Hopper GM, conducted a peal of Stedman Triples at St Edmunds to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty, rung by local ringers, all members of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows. In 1921 he was elected as Vice President of the CNA Northampton District whose meetings he then usually chaired. He was elected in 1923 as a CNA representative to the CCCBR for 1924-6 but he was never able to attend because the newly formed Diocesan Guild did not include him as one of its representatives.

There are few mentions of his ringing in the 1930s - a few quarter peals at St Giles of Stedman Caters and Plain Bob Royal and attendance at the funeral of John Mackay at St Edmunds in January 1933. The 1939 special census shows Fred as living at 117 Upper Thrift Street. He rang two quarter peals in 1944: Grandsire Triples and Stedman Triples at St Peter's and St Giles' respectively, followed by one of Grandsire Caters at St Giles' in 1946 and 1947. He was reported present at the funeral of F Rollings at Weston Favell in October 1955 and his death in 1963 was recorded in the Annual Report.