All Saintsí Bellringers 1914                   Philip Kinsman
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August 1914 In the Ringing Chamber of All Saints’, Wrington, is a photograph, taken on a bellringers’ outing. The charabanc (or bus) had stopped by Dunster Yarn Market, and the ringers posed to mark their arrival, before going on to ring at St George’s. There was a tradition of annual outings, visiting different towers en route; a tradition that has only recently lapsed. August summer 1914 was very hot and dry, so the ringers did not need the canvas roof that could be stretched over them to keep out (some of) the rain. Charabancs were very uncomfortable, with hard seats and minimal suspension, so they were undoubtedly pleased to have arrived. Motorised charabancs were, however, the latest thing, capable of travelling faster than horse-drawn carriages and charabancs, at 20 miles per hour indeed, thus making possible a days ringers outing that travelled further afield. We know the names and professions of most of the ringers on that outing, many of whose lives were about to be changed irrevocably by the outbreak of war a month later. They were a cross section of Wrington male society, all dressed smartly in suits with Eton collars and ties for the occasion. Ringers were then, as now, taken from a broad range of social backgrounds; a fraternity based on skill. The two men who had eschewed the charabanc and had ridden their (latest!) BSA motorbikes, fully dressed in their riding overalls, goggles and berets, were Percy J Wheeldon, organist at All Saints’ (left) and Dubric Wood, solicitor (right) , the latter with Harold Lane, his solicitor’s clerk, riding pillion. Dubric’s ability to ride a motorbike paid off a few months later, as when he signed up to go to war he was given the job of “outrider” that required him to carry messages etc and accompany staff cars, rather than fight in the front line. Unlike his brother Leofric he survived the war. Percy Wheeldon died in the war in 1917, having served in the Gloucestershire regiment.                                        Dubric in 1914 Dubric in 1915 Running along the top, from left to right, we have Henry Seward, who was gardener at The Grove, (at a time when big houses had full-time gardeners); the driver, smart in his peaked hat, a tall man whose name we do not know and then Sid Allen, who was Master Baker in Wrington bakery in Broad Street. Next, set back, we have Ted Andow, who was a painter who worked for J B Sparkes, then Robert Hewin, who was the Headmaster at Wrington School. Seated next to him, with a white beard, William Axford, who was a harness maker from Langford (at the Bell Inn), then set back, with a white button-hole, Jack Lane who worked as a baker for Sid Allen. Sitting in front of him, also sporting a floral button hole, is Bill Nipper, who was also a gardener, this time at Barley Wood. His dad is sitting in the row below.                                            Bill Nipper in 1914      Bill Nipper in 1915 Bill and his brothers Albert and Arthur Francis Nipper signed up; Bill and Albert survived the war, Arthur did not, dying right at the end of the war in September 1918. We don’t know the next one, but the man sitting on the top of the seat-back in front of  Bill Nipper is Bill Parsley, market gardener. We don’t know the next one standing behind, but the man in front of him, with his cigarette and bowler, was Harry Lane, stonemason and chimney sweep. Next to him (returning to the “pork pie” hats), we have William Axford’s son Harry. Finally, Bill Perry, who also worked for J B Sparkes as a painter, and who also died in 1917, having served in the Somerset Light Infantry. (Vera Perry’s father) At the bottom level, sitting on the running board, going from left to right, we have our two farmers, beginning with George Collins, of Court Farm, (Essie Clark’s father) and Fred Alexander, of Meeting House Farm on Long Lane. Then Frank (Francis) Nipper, Bill’s father, who was a harness maker. Next to him, in a light coloured suit, is Walter Organ, who was one of the partners who owned Beam Mills, when it was a flocking mill, chopping and processing wool for filling upholstery etc.. Next to him, his sleeves rolled up, in his smart straw boater, is Harry Gillard, who was a carpenter and wheelwright; then standing, is Jim Milford, postmaster at Wrington Post Office. Then two carpenters, Lionel Gunning (who worked for W W Yates) and Tom Francis (who worked for Harry Gillard). Missing from the picture, of course, is the photographer! This was probably the Tower Captain, John Harley Bridges Hesse, who had recently led the augmentation of the Wrington church bells from six to ten, with the support of the band of bellringers above. We know he was on the outing and had organised it. Educated at Sherborne school, John was a Mechanical Engineer and a partner in a firm of Marine and Motor Engineers, manufacturers of the Hesse patent reversing gear for motor boats. A year later, at the age of 42 he was serving in the army as Major, RASC in France. He survived the war, becoming one of the country’s leading bellringers, finally dying in 1946. He was buried between the yew tree and the copper beach, south of the porch. Philip Kinsman
                                                                                  Henry Seward   the driver ?  Sid Allen            Ted Andow                      Jack Lane             ?   Bill Parsley             ?            Harry Axford                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Robert Hewin William Axford  Bill Nipper                          Harry Lane                     Bill Perry   Percy Wheeldon       George Collins  Fred Alexander Frank Nipper Walter Organ Harry Gillard  Jim Milford, Lionel Gunning Tom Francis   Harold Lane   Dubric Wood