Bell ringing is an old English tradition which flourished with the patronage of Charles II and Elizabeth I. It became the sport of the gentry and later a way of life for common folk, especially those in villages where the church wardens’ squire paid them with ‘cake and ale’, and money to ring. Church bells were the time signals before clocks were installed in towers and alarms before sirens.
Recorded as having a ring of bells since the reign of Edward VI, St Nicholas’ five bells were recast in 1823 and rehung in 1932. An organised band with a leader was needed. Marston started a regular band, similar to the one we have today, but the number of ringers in the Oxford area dwindled between 1914 and 1945, primarily due to men being conscripted to join the war effort.
Although attempts to recruit started in 1944, it wasn’t until the arrival of Alec Gammon that things began to improve. Alec was a member of the Oxford Society and the Oxford Guild, as well as a method ringer. Marston, being a call change band, did not have Guild members.
When the Revd. Gordon Savage arrived, a society, based at St. Nicholas’ Church was founded to train bell-ringers and to provide ringers for services when required. The officers at that time were Roy Jones (Captain), Bill Brain, Anthony Hughes and Christine Woodward (vice captains), and Alec Gammon (secretary). The society joined the Oxford Guild and became a member of the City Branch. It became the leading five bell tower in the world. It is now a six bell one!
In 1972, a sixth bell was added and the platform was built so that a vestry could be established. The short ropes falling easily to hand and the light ring (6cwt) made, and still make excellent teaching and learning facilities. We assist in teaching at other towers and in providing ringers or bands to ring for special occasions around Oxford on a regular basis. Outings and visits are provided throughout the year too.
Marston has been organising Peals, Quarter Peals, training days, and wedding bands since 1951 for itself and the City Branch, and towers surrounding the Branch. Whilst 1980-1990 was a lean period, activities increased since under the guidance of the late Roy Jones and now Hugh Deam, the current Tower Captain.
Many ringers owe their progress to Marston, so why not you? Come join the band! It’s a fun way to make new friends, see different parts of the country, and learn a new skill for life.
The Oxford Guild has removed age restrictions because it really is about skill and we’ve had children the age of 10 more than capable of ringing. You do not need mathematical or musical ability, nor the stamina to ring for a long time. You do not have to be a member of the Church of England or attend services (except to ring where you can).
If you think you might be interested, then arrange to visit a practice evening between 7.15pm and 9pm on a Friday by contacting Roy Peach on 07788 746157. More females have been ringers at Marston than males! Under 18’s need permission from their parents and we will request a contact form to be completed.
- First Peal was rung in 1946.
- Record length of 12,600 Doubles rung in 1958.
- It was the leading 5-bell tower until 1972.
- First recorded Quarter Peal and first for a Service were rung in 1954.
We are a group of local people who share a passion for campology - the art of bell ringing. We are part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and are always keen to welcome new members who are interested in taking part.
In addition to the church bells, we also regularly meet to ring hand bells. Contact us to find out more.