Remembering Private Herbert Williamson

On Sunday 16th December 2018 we rang the bells in memory of a bell ringer from Norbury who passed away weeks after the Armistice, on 15th December 1918.

The story of Herbert Williamson is very tragic and gives a glimpse into the horrors that he, and others must have faced during the Great War. The following information has been taken from the Stockport 1914-1918 project with additional information from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.

Private Herbert Williamson, Norbury, Chester Diocesan. Died 15/12/1918 age 38. Depot Unit, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Service No.42024. Commemorated at Norbury (St Thomas) Churchyard, England, Grave New 189.

Born 1880. Son of Samuel Williamson and Clara Williamson of Hazel Grove. Husband of Lydia Williamson (née Willets) of Hazel Street, Hazel Grove. He worked as a house painter before enlistment.

He rang his first peal, ringing the treble to a peal of 4 Minor methods, at Norbury on 30/11/1907, conducted by Rev. A. T. Beeson. He rang several others peals at Norbury, ringing a number of different minor methods, including peals of 14 minor methods on 27/04/1911, conducted by James Fernley, and  19 minor methods on 12/07/1913, conducted by Rev. A. T. Beeson.

During his military service, he was transferred to the Manchester Regiment during 1917, and later to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Whilst with the Loyal North Lancashire’s, he was severely wounded and had to have a leg amputated whilst in a military hospital in France. Returning to “Blighty”, he spent time in Stepping Hill Hospital, Hazel Grove, and was later transferred to the Victoria Hospital, Sheffield.

In the normal course of events, Herbert would be discharged from the army once he had recovered physically, but, in the meantime, he had been removed from the fighting strength of his Battalion and transferred to the Regimental Depot unit.

Not surprisingly, Herbert was depressed about his condition and, no doubt, his prospects for the future. To try and help his recovery, he was given a day’s leave from hospital and he returned home on Sunday 15 December. In the late afternoon, the family was having tea. Herbert seemed to be restless and eventually got up from the table and went out to the back yard. A little later, they heard a noise and, thinking he might be ill, his brother-in-law, David Brunt, went to see if he was alright. Mr Brunt found Herbert lying with his throat cut and a razor by his side. He was dead.

An inquest on Tuesday the 17th recorded a verdict of “suicide whilst of unsound mind”.

Herbert’s grave is maintained by the War Graves Commission and his name is, rightly, included in its Debt of Honour register. Lydia died in 1958 and is buried with him.

Born: Hazel Grove. Enlisted: Early after the outbreak of war, initially in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, Service No.7516. Resided: Hazel Street, Hazel Grove.

Whilst following up on the research, I realised that Herbert Williamson’s last peal on the bells at Norbury has been recorded on one of peal boards displayed in the ringing chamber:

Herbert Williamson's final peal at Norbury
Herbert Williamson’s final peal at Norbury

Armistice ringing at Norbury

On Sunday 11th November 2018 the 100th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of the Great War was marked.

At Norbury we rang a Quarter Peal for the Evensong church service comprising of our regular Sunday Service band to commemorate the anniversary. The method chosen was aptly named, being Armistice Surprise Major. Here are the details of the performance:

What full-circle ringing bells look like

A while ago I was trying to find pictures or video of bells being rung with the cameras on the bells themselves to help explain what actually goes on.

I was looking for another picture in my archives and discovered a few I took in 2011 when we arranged a belfry maintenance course. The following pictures were taken at Rostherne tower in Cheshire, which are a rustic 6-bell installation, all wooden headstocks, plain bearings and about as traditional as you’re going to get.

As explained elsewhere, in the UK the bells are rung full-circle. The pictures below are all shown with the bells in the ‘down’ position with the mouth of the bell pointing towards the ground. when the bells are rung-up, imagine the bell at 180 degrees from the position in the picture, with the bell upturned and the wooden stay pointing down and resting on a slider on the frame to keep it in position.  When in the up-position the bells are dangerous which is why all work is done on them when they’re in the safe down-position.

This is one of the six bells. You can see the wheel to the left which the rope travels around (and down to the ringer below), the wooden stay on the right poking up and the bell bolted to the wooden headstock.

A bell attached to a wooden headstock with traditional stay
A bell attached to a wooden headstock with traditional stay

Rostherne was used in the training for two reasons. Firstly as already mentioned it’s a very rustic installation compared to some of the modern arrangements in other towers, so it’s of interest from that end. Secondly, there’s plenty of room to move around the tower and walk on the frame, something you simply cannot do at Norbury!

A group we were training on belfry maintenance
A group we were training on belfry maintenance

No practice this week

No ringing practice 18 Feb

Just so you’re aware, due to it being half-term a lot of the band have commitments away from the tower during the week and that’s left us short for the practice on Thursday.

Therefore there will be no Thursday night practice this week which is the 18 February 2016.

Normal service ringing on the following Sunday and business as usual for the practice on 25 February.

Hope to see you there!

What does bell ringing actually look like?

It is always interesting speaking to non-ringers who take an interest in our art/pastime and realising that something we take for granted is actually little known and that many people have no idea what goes on in the ringing room whilst the bells can be heard outside.

This is some footage taken in Liverpool by the Birmingham 12-bell competition band and shows off what is going on and how wonderful it’s sounding as well.

I’m on the look out for some footage which shows the movement of the bells as a split-screen with the ringers so you can see how it all fits together. The footage taken at Christchurch Victoria below gives you a bit of an idea.

Unfortunately we don’t have the space at Norbury to rig up some cameras as the bells would get in the way of each other on the film.

Merry Christmas from the band

Last Sunday, and after the morning service ringing we decamped for mince-pies, Christmas cake and mulled wine.

Some referred to this as ‘breakfast’ although it was a snack for most!

We turned out to ring for the annual Norbury Christmas Carol Concert in the evening and rang a quarter peal:


1280 Yorkshire Surprise Major

Treble: Joyce Gardner
2: Rebecca Glen
3: Simeon W Farrington-Newman
4: Clive R Calton
5: Angela Gardner
6: Alan McFall
7: Geoffrey R Gardner (C)
Tenor: Andrew C D Mayes


There will be no ringing on Thursday evening being Christmas Eve, however we will ring for the Christmas Day service at 9.45 on Friday morning.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Cometh the Autumn

Well it doesn’t seem that long since the summer, yet next weekend the clocks go back one hour and the nights will continue to draw in. It’s definitely Autumn now.

It has been a while since I posted any news on here so I thought it was time for an update.

The band has been steady throughout the year, with another two learners having reached a high enough standard to be able to ring for services and weddings. As these are our regular ‘public performances’ it is important that the ringing is good.

Three of the band were away in Northampton on a bell ringing trip last weekend where five 10-bell quarter peals were rung. The other 7 ringers were from the Greater Manchester area, or just a little bit further (e.g. Bristol!).

Practice nights tend to be a jolly affair, with a lot of ringing, and more laughing and chatting. It is also around the time when we start to make plans for the ringing around Christmas, as well as the all-important Christmas curry!

If you are interested in what we do or would like to have a go, you are more than welcome to do so. The best thing to do is to send a message from the ‘contact’ page so we can make sure we know to expect you. We practice on Thursday evening 8pm-9.30pm and ring on Sunday mornings at 9.45-10.15am.

June already?

Well I must admit that 2015 has been rattling through but having realised the last update on the page was in 2014 it has galvanised me into action.

Ringing at Norbury is going pretty well at the moment with a small number of learners all getting to grips with the art of change-ringing. The band itself is a wide mixture of abilities going from the early stages of learning all the way through to seasoned peal ringers.

We pride ourselves on being a warm and welcoming tower. As such if you are a ringer visiting from elsewhere, or perhaps you learned in the past and would like to take up the hobby again, or even if you’ve heard the bells and wondered what it’s like to ring a church bell, all are welcome.

Our practice night is Thursday, we meet at 8pm and the practice goes through until about 9.30pm. We normally ring for Sunday service at 9.45am (the service starts at 10.15am) and welcome visiting ringers to join us.

Come along and see what it’s all about!