By Jill Cowcill

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Bells ring out for Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell was born on the 4th December 1865 in Norfolk where her father was Vicar of Swardeston. After leaving school she attended Laurel Court in the precincts of Peterborough Cathedral where she trained as a teacher. She started her nursing training at the London Hospital in 1896 and worked in various institutions including a spell as acting Matron in Manchester.

As soon as war was declared in 1914, Edith Cavell went to Brussels to care for the wounded. When Brussels fell to the Germans, she remained there to care for the injured - whichever side they were from. A network was set up to move allied soldiers into neutral territory and she considered this as much a humanitarian act as treating their wounds.

Along with others involved, she was arrested by the German authorities in August 1915 and, following a military trial, was executed by firing squad on 12th October 1915. Her body was repatriated with great ceremony in 1919 and was laid to rest in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.

It is traditional to mark special events by ringing church bells and the greatest form of this is the “full peal” which comprises a minimum of 5,000 changes, and can typically take between two and half hours to three and a half hours depending on the number and weight of the bells. Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of patterns called “changes”. A full peal requires both stamina and sustained concentration; not all full peal attempts are successful!

We are used to hearing a bell or bells ring out to call the faithful to church.  However few bells in “Tribune country” are capable (currently) of being rung “full circle” (i.e. each bell being suspended so that the whole bell assembly may rotate). Some of our churches have bells which, sadly, are in a state of disrepair or are unsafe to ring, some churches such as Northborough and Peakirk, have bells which can only be struck or chimed.

St. Benedict’s church in Glinton has six beautiful bells which can be rung full circle.  In the coming weeks we will be welcoming a band of ringers who will come to ring a peal, something which does not happen very often in Glinton. 

Robert Wood, a bell ringer from Ripon, also a member of one of the two big National ringing societies (The Ancient Society of College Youths, formed in 1637), realised the significance of October 2015 as the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death, so to mark this occasion a team of ringers will attempt to ring a full peal on the bells of St. Benedict’s church on the afternoon of Sunday 11th October starting at 2.00pm. 

If successful, the peal will probably take around two and three quarter hours.

When rung in remembrance of someone who has died, it is traditional to ring with the bells half muffled, but this peal attempt will be rung with the bells fully open to celebrate her life and her Christian selflessness.

We hope that as many of you as possible will be able to hear the bells ringing out, on this and other occasions. Do come and listen, and if you feel tempted to try bell ringing for yourself come to the church on any Thursday evening and you will be very welcome!

Comments (1)

Tony Henthorn

The Tribune are always happy to receive 'nostalgia' stories and photographs, please contact us with any fascinating articles you would like to see on this website and possibly in the printed version of the Tribune,


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