During WW1, women in the village of Longstock, Hampshire trained to be bell ringers to take the place of male ringers at war. Ringing was largely a male preserve before WW1 but female ringers were trained across the country to keep the bells sounding. We held a special #RingingRemembers event last month at Longstock to highlight this historic moment, attended by the descendants of the learners' teacher. BBC South produced this news item for the event. See the accompanying article on our website: https://www.big-ideas.org/longstocks-pioneering-women-ringers-in-world-war-one/The event was inspired by a historic photo held in the Imperial Way Museum archive (First World War Centenary): http://www.1914.org/news/historic-photo-showing-women-bell-ringing-in-world-war-one-recreated-100-years-later/#WW1Centenary #Bellringing BBC SouthWinchester and Portsmouth Bellringers CCCBR – Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Posted by Big Ideas on Tuesday, 18 September 2018
BBC South news item, broadcast on Sunday 19 August
A historic photo held by the Imperial War Museum shows four women training to be bell ringers during World War One in Longstock, Hampshire. Their teacher was The Rev’d Robert Houth (centre), vicar of Longstock. Ringing was largely considered a male preserve before the war but women took up this British art to keep the bells sounding when the male ringers went to the front. Longstock had a population of 413 in 1911; 212 men and 201 women. 75 of the men went to war.
On Sunday 19 August, five descendants of Robert Houth – his great grandson, two great granddaughters and two great great granddaughters, who are all ringers today – rang the same bells at Longstock to mark this historic moment. This was to commemorate both the women ringers at Longstock and more broadly to highlight the lasting impact that World War One’s pioneering women ringers had on bell ringing across the country, which now has equal participation for men and women. The event was featured on BBC South News and several local newspapers.
Mary Saunders, a ringer at Longstock for over 76 years who trained many male and female ringers as Tower Captain, was present to speak to attendees and to give an interview to the BBC. New women recruits for Ringing Remembers, the campaign to recruit new ringers for Armistice Day this year to mark the centenary of the Armistice, and members of the public also attended to ring Longstock’s bells. The new Ringing Remembers recruits were awarded the recently-launched Ringing Remembers badge to mark their participation in the project this centenary year.
The event was also a call out to find the descendants of the women in the photo, and an opportunity to learn more of the story behind the photo from the descendants. Do you have any information you can share with us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.
Claire Partridge, great great granddaughter of the teacher in the photo said: “Being a bell ringer offers an amazing opportunity to take part in a truly timeless activity – one which our ancestors enjoyed before us, and which future generations will hopefully have the pleasure of pursuing as well, in the footsteps of those ringers who fell in the Great War. We were thrilled to take part in the event at Longstock, carrying on the family line of ringers catching hold of the ropes in this little church, and are grateful to Ringing Remembers for facilitating this opportunity.”
The descendants were found via social media through a Ringing Remembers campaign. Virginia Crompton, Chief Executive Officer of Big Ideas said, “It was remarkable that, through Ringing Remembers, we were able to find the descendants of the ringers taking part in this historic moment at Longstock. The event on the 19 August was a special way to commemorate this 100 years later, and helped us to look forward to the Armistice Day commemorations for the World War One centenary.”
With thanks to the bell ringers at Longstock church led by Chris Reynell for hosting and supporting the event, the family members for being part of it, and to the publicity team led by Viv Nobbs at the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringer for helping us to find the descendants and facilitate the event.
Ringing Remembers is led by Big Ideas and the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and supported by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.