The bell ringers of St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden, will once again celebrate “Great Ringing Day” (GRD). This event is held annually and results from a bequest by Thomas Turner, a local mercer and benefactor, who died in June 1623.
The story goes that Turner became lost whilst walking in woods near Saffron Walden but later managed to find his way safely home by following the sound of the church bells. In gratitude for this, he left a legacy which provides 33s 4d to the ringers every year. In early times the money was sufficient to feed about twenty ringers for a full day, although it would buy rather less today.
GRD became a prominent event in the Essex ringing calendar and attracted ringers from other towns and villages in the region, peaking at over 100, although residents might be glad to know that the event is not quite as big as it used to be. In the early 20th century ringing could start at 9 in the morning and, save for meal breaks, keep going until 9 in the evening!
Rather than ringing the church bells continuously, these days the ringers choose to go ‘on tour’ and will spend Saturday ringing at towers along the route of the guided busway in Cambridgeshire. On Sunday 11th June there will be ringing at the church followed by a special service of Choral Evensong at 6.30pm, at which the Rector, Rev’d Jeremy Trew, will preach a sermon on the theme of GRD. Drinks and nibbles will be provided after the service. All are welcome.
Photo: Great Ringing Day 27 June 1914, marking the addition of the 4 bells to make a ring of 12 at St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden