Notable ringing events and ringers

An accidental death

An unfortunate event occurred in the old tower during between 1865 and 1875. The bells had been left raised in readiness for a wedding, when a workman, not knowing the situation, climbed into the belfry to undertake repairs. The ringers returned and began ringing, not knowing that the man was amongst the bells, He was struck on the head by the old 5th and killed instantly. Accounts of the time state that “The traces of this sad event remained in the belfry until the old tower and steeple were pulled down”.

This should serve as a stark reminder to all of us never to climb a bell tower without ensuring that our presence is known about and that the bells are down.

Early ringing

The earliest references to ringing at St George’s are listed below:

  • For ringing on ye King’s birthday and on ye 5th Novr – 11/8d (1687)
  • For mending a bell wheele and rails in ye belfry 4/4 (1687)
  • For ringing 2/2 (1688)
  • Paid to John Lane for mending ye greate bell wheele 2/6 (1688)
  • For oyle for ye bells 1/3 (1689)
  • and in later years we find:
  • Tolling the Bell for the King (George IV) 2/6 (1830)
  • Ringers, Queen’s Proclamation 12/- (1837)
  • Celebration of Queen’s marriage 12/- (1840)
  • Birth of a prince (later King Edward VII) £1 (1841)
  • Ringers on the Archbishop’s visit and preaching 6/- (1848)
  • Tolling a bell for Prince Consort 5/- (1861)

We have comprehensive records of the ringing on the bells during the 20th century. The following entries are of particular interest:

  • 16th June 1904 – The St George’s Beckenham Guild of Bell Ringers was formed.
  • 19th January 1905 – 5040 Grandsire Triples in 2 hours – The first peal on the bells.
  • 14th March 1934 – 5039 Stedman Caters in 3 hours 15 minutes – The first peal on the newly augmented bells.
  • Saturday 22nd September 1945 – 5007 Stedman Caters in 3 Hours 3 minutes – Victory Peal (end of WW II).
  • Saturday April 24th 1948 – 5056 Cambridge Surprise Major in 2 hours 54 minutes – “For St George’s Day and the Silver Wedding of T.M. the King and Queen”.
  • Saturday 25th September 1993 – 5040 Cambridge Surprise Royal in 3 Hours 0 Minutes – the first peal by a local band for many years.
  • Sunday 16th November 2003 – 5003 Grandsire Caters in 2 Hours 56 Minutes – Rung to celebrate the centenary of the dedication of the Tower, Bells and Clock.
  • Wednesday 29th December 2004 – 5056 Beckenham Bob Major in 2 Hours 47 Minutes – Rung to celebrate the 1400th anniversary of the Rochester Diocese and the centenary of the St George’s Beckenham Guild of Bell Ringers.
  • Wednesday 19th January 2005 – 5040 Grandsire Triples in 2 Hours 46 minutes – Rung on the 100th anniversary of the first peal on the bells, which was rung on 19th January 1905. (Same method and composition was rung for both peals).
  • Sunday 27th July 2008 – 5024 Spliced Surprise Major (4 methods) in 2 Hours 50 minutes – The composition used (known as Horton’s Four) is considered one of the most difficult in 8-bell ringing and was rung by the local band – a great achievement.