What is bell ringing and where is it practised?
Bells of all shapes and sizes are found all over the world and are sounded in a number of different ways. But my interest in bell ringing is the English practice of full circle change ringing. This goes back at least to the middle ages when bells were hung with a full wheel which allows the ringer to cause a bell to swing through just over 360 degrees. Although there are rings of bells in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and some former British colonies, the vast majority of bells hung for full-circle ringing are in England.
Nationally, there are about 44,000 bell-ringers who regularly ring for Sunday Services and special occasions but most towers are short of ringers. Any reasonably fit person can learn to ring.
The present method of change-ringing that we know of today originated in the 17th Century. The bells are now hung on full wheels allowing them to swing 360 degrees and produce the sound. This means that several hundred-weight bells can be easily controlled.
Bells are cast from an alloy of copper and tin. This allows the bell to produce a tuned sound whilst being able to withstand the smack of a clapper. Most towers have six or eight bells, but can have 3 to 16 bells.
St John’s Tower Bell
St John’s bell weighs about 10 cwt - half a ton. The bell was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and probably dates to around 1865. It’s primary purpose is to serve as a clock bell and it strikes the hours. It is hung for full circle ringing, but as it lacks a stay and slider it is not safe to ring full circle but it can be chimed, or rung halfway towards upright, i.e. to 90 degrees. During a recent inspection by the Loughborough foundry the bell was found to be safe to ring but the clapper needs some slight maintenance. Bells in general do not need a great deal of maintenance, but if they are rung regularly they do need occasional greasing and the bolts tightened. Bell ropes need to be replaced every 10 years or so if they are used regularly, but our bell is rarely rung and the rope is in good condition. The present rope came from St Giles Camberwell when a new set was bought for them. We do have room in the tower for a small ring of bells but getting them in over the organ would be very expensive and very unpopular with our neighbours.
By Christine Camplin
In his 1902 survey Life and Labour of the People in London Charles Booth described an area:
“which for many years suffered from overbuilding and attracted the poorest by the low rents offered. In East Dulwich a large number of men connected with building live as well as many clerks and warehousemen employed in the City. The better-class young women also work in City shops and office. Laundry work employs many women locally. The better parts of St John’s parish are thought to be safe from deterioration, occupied as they are by a sober and respectable class, many of whom own their houses.”
Lordship Lane was a busy shopping street; Dulwich Tradesmen’s Association was formed in 1908. In 1906 tracks for electric trams were laid along Dog Kennel Hill and Lordship Lane, and the following year electric trams began operating along East Dulwich Road to Peckham Rye and Stuart Road. Dog Kennel Hill was increased to four tracks for safety.
On Monday 27 January 1902 the Mayor of Camberwell officially opened the new Imperial Hall at 72 Grove Vale. It promised: “A series of popular promenade concerts . . . of rather a novel nature, making quite a new feature in suburban enterprise.” It provided concert accommodation for 700 persons, had a unique sliding roof, and two subsidiary halls to be used as smoking and refreshment lounges. The hall was soon booked up for dances and concerts, and in February the vicar of St John’s presided over a grand reception and children’s fancy dress carnival. Supporters of ping-pong were invited to discuss the formation of a Table Tennis Club for East Dulwich.
The Edwardian era moved on, and in July 1910 the LCC Theatres and Music Halls Committee permitted adaption of the large hall for use as a cinematograph hall and it became a full-time cinema. For the more serious-minded, Dulwich Debating Society inaugurated the 1908 New Year with a supper and a concert at the King's Arms Hotel, Peckham Rye.
Meanwhile St John’s Church continued to respond to the growth in population. St Andrew’s Mission Church was opened in Waghorn Street in 1902, and in 1908 the foundation stone of the Church of the Epiphany, Bassano Street, was laid. It had begun as a Children’s Church in the schools in Northcross Road a few years earlier. Some alterations were made to the main church: it was redecorated in 1890 and a railing added to the exterior wall, and in 1914 the vestry was built.
Three vicars oversaw the first two decades of the twentieth century:
Arthur Eglington (1871-1925) was born in Surbiton, Surrey, and ordained priest in 1895. After a curacy at St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, he succeeded William Strickland in 1901 and left in 1909 to be Vicar of nearby St Paul's, Lorrimore Square.
Arthur Henry Howe-Browne (1881-1961) was born in Brighton, Sussex, and ordained priest in 1906. He came to St John’s as a Curate in 1908 following a curacy at St Mary's Church, Witney and succeeded Eglington as Vicar from 1909 to 1916. He left to become Vicar of St John the Baptist, Kensington. Between 1916 and 1921 he was Bishop of Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Charles Ernest Read (1875-1937) was born in Stepney and ordained priest in 1900. He came to St John's as vicar in 1916 after curacies at St Stephen's, Upton Park and St John the Divine, Kennington. However, due to ill health he resigned in 1919 and returned to St John the Divine as Curate.
Life around Goose Green was settled - but was about to change. After an insignificant Austrian Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, European diplomacy unravelled and Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August. Many young men joined up.
The local artillery put open spaces to military use. Camberwell Gun Brigade (33rd Camberwell Division Artillery) was a volunteer force recruited in 1915 across the Borough of Camberwell in response to the Lord Kitchener appeal. They carried out drill and cavalry exercises on Goose Green, Dulwich Park and Dulwich Hamlet Football ground.
St Saviour's Union Infirmary (renamed the Southwark Union Infirmary in 1902) was requisitioned by the War Office and transformed into Southwark Military Hospital. It is estimated that about 12,500 wounded soldiers passed through the hospital, of whom only 199 died. The Hospital was returned to the Guardians in April 1919 and renamed Southwark Hospital in 1921.
Even Dulwich Baths was initially converted to a hospital before being used by the War Refugees Committee as a hostel for refugees, mostly Belgian, but also Russian and French. It briefly returned to public use in 1915, was then allocated for a few months to the Camberwell Gun Brigade and later that year housed two brigades of the Territorial Army. Public swimming resumed in 1917 but the Baths also operated as an unofficial shelter during the air raids that year.
For my summer reading book, I chose the classic story of “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith. It was a Brilliant book, filled with amazing imagery, captivating characters and an interesting storyline. It follows the diary entries of Cassandra Mortmain, living in a run-down castle in the middle of the countryside.
There were many things I liked about it, but one particular bit I would like to point out was where Cassandra was talking to their local priest. It is not really a very religious book, but one line stood out to me, which was when he tells her: “if you want to really understand faith, sit in an empty church.” It made me think about religion, life, relationships, poverty and how I saw the world. Imagine living in a place most merely dream of, but having little to nothing. Many lines in this book will leave a lasting impression, and I was almost sad to have finished it. I fully recommend.
Vicar Revd Gill O’Neill 020 7564 0058, 07958 592 425, firstname.lastname@example.org
Curate Revd Gemma Birt email@example.com
Assistant Priests Revd Anne Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org and Revd Alistair McCulloch email@example.com
Parish Administrator Bradley Collins 020 8693 3897, firstname.lastname@example.org
Churchwardens Jim Nurton 07765 881 556 and Julie Whitney 07786 686 385
Parish Safeguarding Officer Tina Hampson (contact via Parish Administrator)
PCC Secretary Christine Camplin
PCC Treasurer Sarah Goudge
Stewardship Martin Howell
Director of Music John Webber
Electoral Roll Officer Bradley Collins
Church Flowers Sally Gross
Goose Green Centre Bradley Collins
Editors of The Gander Christine Camplin, Jim Nurton, Tayo Olatunde and Sue O'Neill
(Contact each of the above via Parish Administrator)
St John's & St Clement's C of E Primary School, Adys Road, London SE15 4DY
www.stjohnsandstclements.org, 020 7525 9210
The views expressed in The Gander are not necessarily those of the Editors, Vicar or PCC.
Notices and items or articles for possible inclusion in the next issue of The Gander must be with the Editors by the 15th of the preceding month. Please contact the team in person or by email to the Parish Administrator with any questions.