A Short History of the Calne Branch, SDGR

The Guild was founded in 1882 and administered as a whole, but by 1897, with membership reaching over 300 and, no doubt, increased administration as a result, discussions were mooted to subdivide the Diocese into Branches, so that in 1901 four district branches based generally on deaneries were formed: Dorchester, Devizes, Wimborne and Salisbury.

This format remained until 1910, and in that year the West Dorset Branch was formed from the Dorchester branch, and in the following year, 1911, the Marlborough branch came into existence from the Devizes branch. In 1921 the Marlborough branch was split and this saw the setting up of the Calne Branch. Bromham transferred into the Calne branch from the Devizes branch in the 1970’s.

Two founding members of the Calne Branch were branch chairman; the Rev. Canon H.V.White, from Broad Hinton and  Secretary; Mr Louis Wilson from Wootton Bassett. Reg Barry then became the chairman in 1963.  The branch secretary for some long while in the 1960s etc was ‘Jim’ Hacker, who was a member of the Calne band.  Another notable member of the Calne branch was the formidable Shirley Rymer, who was Guild training officer for many years.  It is worth mentioning that the Calne branch benefitted from the presence of service personnel, stationed at Lyneham, Yatesbury and Compton Bassett.

Originally the Calne branch had members at ten ringable churches:
Calne (8), Wootton Bassett (8), Lyneham (5), Bremhill (6), Yatesbury (4), Compton Bassett (5), Cliffe Pypard (6), Broad Hinton (6), Hilmarton (6) and Heddington (5). There was also an unringable ring at Avebury (5).

By the addition of a treble bell the following augmentations have taken place:

  • Yatesbury was increased to five bells in 1929.
  • Lyneham was increased to six bells in 1947.  
  • Heddington was increased to six bells in 1953,
  • Compton Bassett was augmented to six bells in 1983.  This addition was a branch bell given to commemorate the centenary of the SDGR in 1982.

The following additional bell works were carried out:

  • The cracked third at Yatesbury was recast, and dedicated in July 1964.
  • The front four bells at Avebury were recast as a peal of six in 1980. The tenor of the old ring was kept as a clock bell it being cast by Richard Phelps of London in 1719, he being a native of Avebury. This ring of six was augmented to eight in 2009.
  • The tenor bell at Calne was recast in 1989.
  • Bromham bells were tuned and rehung in 1990.
  • Bremhill bells were tuned and rehung in 2001,
  • and Hilmarton bells were tunded and rehung in 2005

The bells at Clyffe Pypard are unable to be rung now because the tower is unsafe.

Therefore at the moment the branch has eleven ringable churches with rings of five or more bells. There are also rings of four, or less, at the following churches within the branch; Winterbourne Bassett (3), Winterbourne Monkton (4), and Calstone Wellington (3). The ring of three at Cherhill became a chime, hung dead, in 1987.

The tenor bell at Royal Wootton Bassett came to national attention during the early years of 21st century when it was tolled regularly as part of the repatriation ceremonies for the bodies of service personnel being returned to the UK from Afghanistan via RAF Lyneham.

© Dennis Powney, & Jane Ridgwell 2015.