Stanley M Ruddlesden
29/9/1922 - 19/3/2018Stan was born in 1922 and brought up in Newnham, near Daventry. He attended the local village school and then Daventry Grammar School, where his love of sport, particularly cricket and Rugby was first encouraged. He enjoyed being a member of a team, and he was always keen to try new activities so it is no surprise that he decided to learn to ring.
His childhood home would have been within the sound of the bells at Newnham Church but the local ringers there were not inclined to welcome the lads of the village, so Stan and his friends cycled to nearby Staverton, where they had heard they could learn to ring with the Revd Powell and his wife Molly. Stan often spoke of those times and he had the highest possible regard for both of them, both as kindly instructors and friends. He learned to handle a bell and the rudiments of change ringing under their tuition but then war broke out, and there followed a natural break in his ringing for about 6 or 7 years..
After completing teacher training at City of Leeds college (evacuated to Scarborough) he then joined the Royal Navy, spending much of his National Service in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy. Stan was full of stories about the war. He obviously took full advantage of the travel and widening of horizons, though obviously there were some dramas and hair-raising experiences. His 'Uncle Albert' style of reportage about the Navy was a source of amusement to our family, but looking through old photographs, it is clear to see how much his time in the Navy had meant to him as a young man.
On returning from National Service, Stan took a teaching job in Northampton at Vernon Terrace School and lodged during the week in the town. He soon found some ringing and ringers who were keen to progress and it was not long before he scored his first peal at Whilton in December 1946, ringing the treble to Plain Bob Minor, conducted by Bill Hammons.
Stan's involvement with local sporting activity meant that Saturdays and Sundays were largely taken care of – cricket during the Summer and rugby in the winter but he maintained his interest in ringing at a local and fairly modest level. After he was married in 1949 to Hilda, he moved to Badby and the demands of his job, the travel to and from work and family life became the major preoccupation.
The family moved to Kingsthorpe, in Northampton, in 1956. The garden at the new house needed hours of labour to reclaim it from a building site but it was within earshot of the bells of St John the Baptist church. Hilda suggested he took a break from his gardening and persuaded him to go down to the church and join them – and from then he was hooked! The ringers there greeted him warmly and he soon became a member of the band, which was, at that time, the place to go for minor ringing in the town and the standard of striking there was high.
It was during the time at Kingsthorpe that Stan taught me, his eldest daughter, to ring, November 1962 to be precise. The bells at Kingsthorpe were not an easy proposition and Stan soon became the taxi driver (and mentor) to a very keen learner. He was badgered into visiting as many ringing practices as was possible during the week and some Saturdays when he wasn't playing rugby. He became very active and well-known in the area, becoming Northampton Branch ringing master, and he starting ringing peals in earnest, with Barrie Hendry and Graham and Alan Paul. Ringing was now overtaking the sports – well, he was now over 40!
Stan and Hilda were great lovers of the countryside – never 'townies' - and it was almost inevitable that the family would move back to South Northamptonshire. Stan started to apply for headships in the county and, after a few near misses, he became the Headteacher at Culworth. At his interview he told the Chair of Governors,also the rector of the parish, that he and his daughter were keen bellringers, thinking this would be a strong point in his favour. “Don't worry - we already have our band of ringers here, thank you” he was told. But Stan dutifully joined in, tentatively and diplomatically feeling his way into a very different style of band. It was an ageing group so, in time, Stan set about teaching some youngsters from the village and anyone else who showed an interest. The numbers that went 'through the books' were countless but the bells rang almost every Sunday, morning and evening, all the while the family lived there, with Stan carefully managing the the different personalities. [He was the Secretary of the Culworth Branch of the Guild until 1980.]
It was fortunate for the advancement of his own ringing that the newly augmented ring of 10 at Daventry were only 12 miles away, where Pat Chapman ran a very good practice and was an affable and patient ringing master. Stan had moved on from being a competent minor and doubles ringer to ringing surprise major but now he was able to add royal to his repertoire. At roughly the same time, a telephone was installed at School House and the diary began to fill with many peal opportunities from many different organisers and in many diverse locations. The Daventry connection remained strong, however – he rang 165 peals there, standing in many 'first in method'. He was often seen with a scruffy piece of paper containing a new line to be learnt, accompanied by a worried expression!
After Hilda had a severe stroke in 1982, Stan decided to retire. The School House came with the job so a new location was sought and Long Buckby was chosen for a number of practical reasons. When in 1987 Stan became a widower, it proved to be a friendly community with all the amenities close at hand and good communications – near to the motorway and train station for visiting family and friends. And he somehow managed to become tower Captain at St Lawrence church, even though there was not a regular band. There then followed more teaching and a whole new group of loyal Sunday service ringers who all became actively involved with the Millennium project to augment the bells to 8. Stan was delighted to provide the 3rd bell in memory of Hilda.
Stan rang a total of 1006 peals, over a period of 61 years - a leisurely pace by today's standards but all carefully recorded with a sense of pride and achievement. He had a loyal group around him to 'finish the job' – he was getting very close to 1000 but finding each one more challenging as his health began to deteriorate – and he was so grateful to Andrew and Julie Haseldine, Chris and Ruth Stokes and Ray Vickers for helping him achieve his goal. He retired from peal ringing in October 2007 but still continued to ring locally for about another 5 years. It was the company that he enjoyed and he always maintained his love of 'a pint or two' after practice, along with stories and social chat.
Stan was a lifelong member of the Peterborough DG, becoming an Honorary member in 1983 for services to the Guild. He joined the College Youths in 1982 and was immensely proud of his membership. But a good proportion of his ringing, certainly since 1974, was with the South Northamptonshire Society, which provided peals, outings, holidays and companionship for over 40 years.
We have, as a family, received many tributes from ringers. All speak of his good nature, his kindness and patience with learners, his ability to fit in and a general desire to help. He contributed to ringing in so many different ways, always modest and unassuming, but with a wealth of experience which he loved to share with others. He was remembered with affection in a packed church at Long Buckby on July 11, 2018.
Author: Shirley McGill