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Bellringing dynasties

Over the centuries there have been many ringing dynasties – ringers from several generations of a family. The earliest name we can attach to a Wokingham ringer is Thomas Houlton. We can’t be sure he was a ringer but he received payments for bellropes in the 1810s and he was probably in charge of the ringing, and when records of ringers began in 1881 they show an unbroken line of Houltons (E, T, H and W) through to 1948. William Houlton is the imposing figure on the left of the picture of ringers after a peal of Grandsire Triples at St Paul’s on 25th January 1923.

Ringers in the 1923 peal

Ringers outside St Paul’s church after a peal rung in 1923

Next to Houlton is Bill Paice, a vary capable ringer who learnt to ring in Wokingham and went on to ring in London, at St Mary Abbots Kensington and St Paul’s Cathedral, before eventually retiring to Sandhurst. Bill’s father Sam Paice, was a postman who probably learnt to ring in Yateley. He moved to Wokingham in his mid twenties and his house in Goodchild Road was called ‘Ringwell’ – appropriate for a bellringer. He was the first All Saints ringer to ring a peal (in June 1883) and he rang in the first peal by all local ringers (in March 1899 at Sandhurst). From 1896 until his death in 1920 he led the band at All Saints during which time the band’s capability advanced enormously and two extra bells were added (from six to eight).

Sam Paice, Postman who led the ringers to success in Edwardian times

Next to Bill in the picture is Frank Lush, who came from another ringing family. His grandfather George, born in 1821 had four sons. We don’t know whether George rang (he was 60 when records of ringers began) but two of his sons, Walter and Frank, were both ringers, though they were more famous as coach builders, with customers including King Edward VII, Empress Eugenie of the French, and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. Frank junior (in the picture) was a carpenter and joiner who began ringing in 1895 and continued until 1946, a total of 52 years.

Third from the right in the picture is George Cole whose son and daughter both followed him into the tower. George worked for Hughes joiners and later kept a sweet shop on the corner of Easthampstead Road. His son Henry learnt to ring in 1936 but the war cut short his ringing career. He joined the 6th Battalion Grenadier Guards, and was killed in Italy on 30th January 1944, aged 23. His sister Mary learnt to ring just after the war. She lived her whole life in the family home at 17 Godchild Road and died on 4th October 2014. She worked for a dairy delivering milk but after slipping on ice and being injured she had to do light work. She later became a telephone operator, in due course running the team.

William Loader rang in Wokingham in the 1890s and like the Lushes he achieved considerable fame outside the tower. He was a farrier and ran the smithy in Peach Street (mentioned in an earlier Wokingham Remembers) from 1895. He was a master of his craft who distinguished himself in competitions. For example, an 1899 article in All Saints Parish Magazine said: ‘William Loader of Peach Street, one of our Bellringers, at the recent Royal Counties Show at Windsor, again took 1st prize for shoeing carriage horses’, suggesting that he had won many previous prizes.

William died in November 1905 at the age of 52, and his grave in All Saints churchyard, unlike virtually all the others, is surrounded by wrought iron work – very appropriate for a man whose working revolved around a forge.

William Loader's grave

Wrought iron around the grave of William Loader, farrier

William had four children with his first wife Bessie, who died in childbirth in 1889. He then married Mary with whom he had three more children. The oldest, Albert Victor, was born in 1897, attended Palmer Church of England School and worked in the office of the Town Clerk. At the age of 15 he learnt to ring and made good progress, but sadly the war cut short his ringing career. When he reached the age to enlist he joined the 15th Battalion of the London Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles) and was killed in his first action in France on October 7th, aged 19. In Heroes from the Belfry, a series run throughout the war in The Ringing World, he was described as: ‘a regular and painstaking ringer, ever ready to assist ringing for any special service, keenly alert and anxious to do his very best in every department of life’. There was muffled ringing in Wokingham at the time, and this year on the centenary of his death, Friday 7th October, Wokingham ringers will again remembered him by ringing a quarter peal in his memory. The method rung will be Yorkshire Surprise Major, a more complex method than he was able to ring, but the modern band is more capable than it was in the early 20th century

Albert Victor Loader

Private Albert Victor Loader, killed in his first action on 7 October 1916

 John Harrison, September 2016


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