The Mere branch came into being in 1993 following a decision the previous year to increase the then eight branches to nine. E A Barnett was elected secretary and the branch was formed – from 14 towers from the North Dorset branch and 7 from the Salisbury branch. In 2001, with the demise of the North Dorset branch, further towers were added bringing the number up to the present total of 32 towers.
The branch is spread over a large area from Maiden Bradley in the north to Lydlinch in the south. Stourton Caundle is our most westerly tower and over towards Salisbury, Chilmark the most easterly. Four of our towers are classed as unringable, so we have 28 which are ringable: two of 8 bells (Mere and Gillingham), 17 of six bells, 4 of five bells, 4 of four bells and the three bell tower at Fifehead Magdalen.
A couple of towers are of note historically to the branch:
- Kington Magna was, in 1873, the birthplace of Frank Lewellyn Edwards, who returned to become Rector of the church there from 1908 to his retirement in 1956 – he died on Christmas Eve that year. He was elected Guild secretary and Treasurer in 1913, a post he held for 37 years. A bequest from him formed the basis of the Llewellyn Edwards Bell Restoration Fund.
- Lydlinch’s five bells lay claim to have been one of the few towers to have had its bells celebrated in verse – in ‘Lydlinch Bells’ by local poet William Barnes. This can be seen printed on the inside cover page of the Guilds’ ‘Forms of Service’ booklet.
‘Vor Lydlinch bells be good vor sound, an’ liked by all the naighbours round.’
Below: Members of the Mere branch pictured on their bell ringing outing, June 2015.