March 1 2015 Latest news:
Donna-Louise Bishop, Reporter
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Special anniversary celebration looms for the church that is etched into Norwich’s history
Up until the start of the First World War it seemed men ruled the bell roost at a Norwich church – but that was soon about to change.
By the 15th century the bells of St Peter Mancroft Church were proudly ringing out across the city for all to hear.
But it was not until 1914 when a group of women seized the chance to try their hand at bell ringing.
Now the team behind this research is hoping to publish a book on the history of the church ahead of the 300th anniversary of its first peal.
This landmark means the church has etched itself into the history books as one of the most important historic ringing towers in the country.
Maureen Cubitt, of Christchurch Road, Eaton, has rung the bells at the church with her husband David for around 50 years and is a member of St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers.
She said: “In 1815 they celebrated the centenary with a new tenor bell, but the bicentenary in 1915 could not be celebrated. So next year we want to celebrate the 300th anniversary.
“We hope that on May 2 the city will celebrate with us and maybe all the towers in Norwich and elsewhere could ring on this date.”
The church has stood on the city centre site since the Normans set up the market place and in 1430 building work started on the current St Peter Mancroft.
Now major changes are being proposed which will see the tower transformed to create a Heritage Centre to attract visitors to learn about the art and science of ringing.
The main elements of the project include reinstating the original ringing gallery, which was removed in the late 19th century, introducing improved sound control and installing a ring of eight dumb bells.
A new floor level would mean it would be easier to ring the present ropes, as it would reduce their length by 35ft. The group also plans to publish a book about the history of the development of change ringing at St Peter Mancroft and the stories behind its famous ringers – including the story of the female ringers.
Due to the First World War, the Mancroft Guild of Ringers suffered a consequent loss of numbers and invited a “limited number of ladies” to join in 1916 as probationers.
The women were taught by John Burton and in 1917 Frances Bill, Helen Bill, Hilda Durrant, May Durrant and Miss D Seymoure, were elected to full membership and the bells were able to ring out over the city in celebration at the end of the war. Of the present 31 Guild members, 11 are women, with different experiences and ages spanning five decades. The St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers is a voluntary guild affiliated to both the church and the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers.
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