The village church has also been the home of various teams of bell-ringer whose make-up, often incorporating several members of the same family, has changed frequently over time. Although regular bell-ringing was part of village life
for many years, like so many other community activities, changes to working and leisure patterns in the 1960s and 1970s saw the bells fall silent owing to an absence of ringers. However, in 1980 Miss Hanham, the retired head teacher of the village school, who lived at Sunnydale on the Church Lane cross-roads, decided that she wanted to hear the sound of bells once again. She offered to pay for a new bell to take the complement up to six and this proved to be the impetus for other villagers to rally round and fund the cleaning and re-tuning of the original five bells. This was carried out at a foundry in Whitechapel, where the new bell was also cast, and in the meantime the access to the tower was also made safe.
Eighteen volunteers of all ages came forward to learn how to play and were taught at Barford St. Martin, Dinton and Compton Chamberlayne churches. The process involved learning the techniques and changes, but with the bells padded to make them silent, which made it very difficult to judge progress, since the ringers could not hear the results of their efforts.
The tower captain was Roy Simper, whose father had been tower captain some years earlier before the bells were silenced. His team of six was supplemented by an additional two teams, headed respectively by Ted Mahoney and Tony Wells. This meant that the ringing duties could be rotated between them and this system thrived for around nine years until ill-health and age reduced the numbers available. Only around half a dozen trained ringers now remain, who are called upon to ring at family services and weddings, while also ringing a muted peal every Remembrance Sunday
On Wednesday 1st August 2001, visiting bell-ringers rang a full peal in anticipation of the late Queen Mother’s birthday on 4th August. This was only the third time that a full peal had been rung on the bells, according to the records kept by the Salisbury Guild of Bell ringers. Click here for more details of the peal and the participants.