with Thanksgiving for the Centenary of the Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers

14 January 2024 3.30pm


In 1924 what would they have thought of a gadget that instantly will guide you step by step all the way from Badby near the source of the River Nene to St Mary’s Church in Peterborough.  After 1991, what would they have thought of St Mary’s design and its modern tuneful eight bells that they would have found on getting there?

2023 left us with a deluge of wet weather but the Guild’s centenary year of 2024 soon turned to dry and cold. My gadget said I could walk the 53.8 miles to St Mary’s in 19 hours and 44 minutes and it would be 7 minutes quicker to miss it out and go straight to the Cathedral,  but it didn’t take us on the Nene Way and didn’t tell us whether we would have to wade through any floods!  We voted for diesel, lest the cold weather reduced the electric’s range too far, and took the 1 hour 13 minute route via the A45 to the lightly filled Wellington Street car park.  Our journey brought us down 551 feet nearer to sea level from the Northamptonshire highlands. Taking comfort in the patience of the Guild Steward in making the well worn parking ticket machine work, it eventually coughed up a ticket for us.

Visiting St Mary’s, after many years of not having done so, was my highlight of the day.  It was fascinating to find a set of solo colour sallies on the top landing and a vast warm waiting room to be greeted, sorted and invited to ring efficiently by Andrew Christie.  A lot of faces that seem to have aged a lot over the Covid years, like me, greeted us and we enjoyed our ring.  For some reason it took me a few changes to get used to the tenor, the black sally, being in the centre of the far row!

We strolled down the empty cold streets to hear the constantly changing sound of multiple bells bouncing around the buildings until we entered the West Front green as the last few changes of Cambridge S Maximus  came round and the bells stood.  All part of the well choreographed arrangements to suit this start of the centenary celebrations. Thanks to Richard Allton for conducting and congratulations to our Gwynneth for ringing her first quarter on 12 tower bells.

My mind went a bit fuzzy as I thought to myself that the welcoming duet outside the west front look remarkably like the Secretary and President but of the Coventry Guild – then I focussed and recalled that neighbouring guilds had been invited to come along and join us.

Having got past the burly security chap it was reassuring to see the PDG100 logo on the Choral Evensong service booklet. We recognised more faces in the 100 or so nave congregation. 

I have fond, but probably faulty, memories of an intimate squash in the choir at Bristol Cathedral for choral evensong, which shows how little I remember of Peterborough but we do have six Anglican cathedrals nearer to us.

For all of 2024, I had so far had a completely blocked right ear which caused me even more difficulty than usual in hearing what was going on.  Standing by a loudspeaker, I couldn’t hear the Canon in Residence but realised I had the text in the booklet in front of me! For a choral evensong we were blessed in having three hymns that we knew and could belt out, but even that seemed lost in the vastness of the cathedral’s space – or was it my ears!  I am sure that friendly Bishop John gave a good sermon and even pulled the microphone right up to his mouth, but I will need to rely on others to tell you about it.

With the service and processions complete, the organist played Carillon de Westminster by Louis Vierne, with the well known quarter chimes emerging slowly through the foreground of urgent tinkling bits.  We ambled around to the south transept which had been laid out by the Peterborough Branch to provide us with refreshments while we chatted around.  I was too mean to buy enough parking time, so missed the cutting of the splendid PDG100 cakes.  With the onset of the evening gloom we set off to climb the 551 feet back up to Badby.


Geoff Pullin

Badby, Daventry.


Photographs from the day:

The sculpture of Mars by Luke Jerram over the nave crossing with the reception in the background The Guild Master and Secretary with representatives from Leicester DG and Bedfordshire Assoc. One of the Anniversary Cakes. The President, Secretary and Patron (Bishop of Brixworth) cutting the cake.
Photographs: Simon Pearce.