The Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers was founded at a meeting held in the City on the 14th September 1882 under the patronage of the Bishop and the presidency of the Right Honourable the Earl Nelson, with the Archdeacons of Dorset, Sarum (Salisbury), and Wiltshire being Vice Presidents.
Little is known of that very first meeting as no record seems to have survived the event, but early Reports state that the Guild was founded “for the Promotion of Belfry Reform and the Cultivation of Change-Ringing”.
For the first 19 years the Guild was administered as a whole, but by 1897, with membership reaching over 300 and, no doubt, increased administration as a result, discussions were muted 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 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 and three years later, in 1924, the North Dorset branch came into existence from the Wimborne branch. It wasn’t until 1993 that the Mere branch was formed, claiming 14 towers from the North Dorset branch and seven from Salisbury. Sadly, 2001 saw the demise of the North Dorset branch with the remaining towers transferred to the surrounding branches of Dorchester, East Dorset, Mere and West Dorset. (At the 1986 AGM held at Swanage it was agreed that the Wimborne branch should be known as the East Dorset branch). These, then, are today the eight branches of the SDGR and membership stands a little short of 1500.
The foremost important event in the Guild calendar is the Annual General meeting, known more familiarly today as the Guild Festival, held nowadays on the second Saturday of May. Each branch, in turn, hosts the event which, besides the important business meeting, includes either a dinner or high tea, a service, and ringing at selected towers en route to and from the centre.
The Guild Open Day, held annually on the third Saturday of August and organised by each branch in turn, sees ringers from various parts of the country joining with members and provoking a fund-raising and social occasion; the financial result benefiting the LEBRF (The Llewellyn Edwards Bell Restoration Fund). The objectives of the fund are to assist both active and redundant churches within the Salisbury Diocese. Further annual activities include the Quarter Peal Week, held during the autumn and the Peal Week held through the Christmas period to New Year’s Day.
The annual Guild Report comes out in April and a newsletter, Face to Face, published regularly ever since the 1970s, is circulated three times each year across the Guild.
We hope the above brief notes prove of interest to you and assure you that there is a host of information to be found throughout our newly established Website.
We encourage ringing of all standards from call-changes to methods and ringers of all standards and inclination are very welcome. If you are ever in the area please feel free to pop in on a practice night, all our towers provide the warmest of welcomes even in the colder months!