A Loss to the Nation
Ian: My Grandma (née Farrington) on my mother’s side had two brothers and two sisters and they grew up in Newcastle–Under–Lyme, Staffordshire. I knew my two Great Aunts and was aware of my Great Uncle Frank Farrington, who survived WW1 and became a designer at W. T. Copeland & Sons Ltd [Spode Pottery], Stoke–On–Trent. Of course I never knew my other Great Uncle, Sidney Farrington, as he was killed in action on 10 June 1918, aged 19. I first became aware of him when, as a child, I saw his framed photograph in his army uniform [pictured], which hung on a wall in my grandparents’ bedroom. I now know that he’d enlisted in the 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own).
I was told that Sidney had been killed in the First World War. Indeed my Great Uncle Bill, married to one of Grandma’s sisters, told me he had been hit by a shell. This seemed odd to me, a young child, as the only shells I knew of were sea shells. I was not enlightened! It was only in June this year, subsequent to our visit to his grave in the Bienvillers Military Cemetery, 11 miles South West of Arras, on the 100th anniversary of his death, that I learned that he and three others had been killed by a trench mortar bomb at or very near to Essarts les Bucquoy. Four others had been injured. At the military cemetery my wife, sister, second cousin, her husband and I held a short service in his memory [pictured at bottom of page].
We children (I have a brother and a sister) were told that Sidney had been apprenticed to Wedgewood as a designer, (though we now believe he may also have produced work for other Pottery manufacturers). Indeed the family has several examples of his work, including wall plates [pictured] which he painted by hand when he was a young teenager. The larger of the 2 plates is dated May 1913 – Sidney would have been 14. The smaller plate is dated May 1914. He was also an accomplished artist, painting woodland scenes and producing beautifully detailed and colourful sketches of people and dogs. His death was reported in the local press as being “a loss to the nation.”
Both my Great Uncles were bell ringers at St. Giles, Newcastle-Under-Lyme (then eight Bells – now twelve), but worshipped at nearby St. George’s (which has only one bell!). Sidney is remembered in the roll of honour to the war dead at both St Georges [pictured] and at Stoke Minster.
After receiving encouragement from my second cousin, Shirley, who, with her husband Martin, has been a long time bell-ringer at Holy Trinity, Cookham, Berks and after making one false start last November, I came across and responded to the ‘Ringing Remembers’ campaign in the Diocese of Chester ebulletin. Whilst this was the catalyst for me finally taking up bell ringing in honour of Sidney, I’d actually had it in mind for several years to become a bell-ringer at the church where I’ve worshipped since I was 18 months old. This is because my father’s name (M S Taylor) is on one of the bells (and I therefore thought I would quite like to ring it in his memory – he died in 1974 aged 48). I was also responsible for having the tower re-pointed and the clock faces repainted in 1988 when I was church warden.
Dad was vicar’s warden when two further bells (making eight) were installed in the bell tower in 1963. Hence his name, along with that of the then vicar, the Rev’d Arthur Carver and the other warden, Mr. Owen, is on a bell [pictured]. The bell tower itself (dating from 1811) is unusual in that it stands on its own [pictured], the church building (long since not in use) to which it was attached, having been demolished in 1963 because the roof had become unsafe. The bell tower was retained because the adjacent church (dating from 1880) has no tower. The bell tower would not have stood without the support of the church building if the bells had remained in the louvered bell chamber. They were therefore dropped to the floor below the clock level and are now rung from the ground floor.
The new bells were dedicated and the existing bells were rededicated (by the then Bishop of Chester, the Rt. Rev’d Gerald Ellison) during a short service in the winter of 1963/4 [pictured]. That’s my father extreme right with his warden’s stave processing back to church [pictured]. The first peel after augmentation was in January 1964 [pictured].
As far as me becoming an accomplished bell ringer is concerned, it’s still early days and there is much to learn (!), but I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole experience – especially ringing ‘Dad’s’ bell! I would encourage anyone who has been considering it to give it a go. I’ve found the bell-ringers I’ve met (from other churches as well as from mine) to be friendly, helpful, encouraging – and extremely patient!
I wish to end by saying that an abiding memory of our visit to France was that many fields and hedgerows were a vivid red – being adorned with poppies [pictured]. It was also extremely poignant that our small service at Great Uncle Sidney’s headstone [pictured] at the beautifully laid out and tended Bienvillers Military Cemetery started to the distant sound of gunfire (perhaps local farmers on a shoot) and ended to the nearby sound of a solitary church bell – it being a Sunday…
The Ringing Remembers campaign is recruiting 1,400 new bell ringers in memory of the 1,400 who lost their lives in World War One. All new recruits will have once in a life time opportunity to ring on Armistice Day (11 November) this year to mark 100 years since the end of the war. Find out more about the campaign and signup by visiting our Ringing Remembers project page and read more leaner’s stories here.