It was slightly misty with a nip in the air, unlike the previous day, for the morning of the Ringing World’s centenary. Still, St Mary’s at Rotherhithe looked resplendent with daffodils crocuses and primroses all in bloom in the churchyard. As we stewards, Trisha, Simon and myself, arrived, equipped with a large tin for non ticket holder donations and specially printed sheets to list the long queues into orderly batches of eight, the morning felt promising. Although, on our way to the church, a large contingency of police had been spotted travelling down the Thames to Westminster, we were confident that the bell ringers would remain true to their usually happy, mild mannered and amicable type and not cause any trouble that day.
After unlocking the tower we spent some time pondering over last minute details. Would we have enough change for any twenty pound notes? Would there be a queue to the loo? Would there be access to the church for this purpose? Which pub should we send them to if there wasn’t? So it was a welcome distraction when our first visiting bell ringer, Raymond Watkin, turned up with his wife Pat. They had set off by train at 7am that morning from Milton Keynes in order to get to the Whitechapel bell foundry in east London before it closed and from there had found their way miraculously, via various strange, small railway systems, to Rotherhithe; somewhere Raymond had always wanted to ring. Eagerly we rang the bells up and waited. We did suggest some Plain Bob Minimus after a while but Raymond declined (much to my relief) and said he would rather wait for some more ringers to turn up.
Time ticked by and we spent a very pleasant half hour chatting about the day and discussing numerous bus and tube routes to Westminster, how to get out at London Bridge and cross the river for Magnus Martyr and was the art exhibition still open? The brochure said ‘yes’, the website ‘no’. Eventually, heads reeling, Raymond and Pat decided to set off for the Brunel Museum instead, with a promise from us that, on the outside chance of some more bell ringers turning up, we would come and fetch them back.
Alas it wasn’t to be. The hour had passed. We collected up our empty tin and blank forms. Trisha and Simon turned the bells over to back stroke ready for Sunday morning and I cleaned and polished the children’s slide in the churchyard for good measure. Then it was off to the Angel Pub’s upstairs lounge for an early lunch by the river.
It would be really lovely to see you another time Raymond!
Article and pics by Trisha and Alison