Annual Report of the Ancient Society of Esquire Leeds Youths


The year past has been a very full and exciting year for members of the Company. Within the Parish the bells have been rung every Sunday morning over the past year, excepting two or three regular Sundays when weather or other problems overcame us, and at Christmas when members of the Company were unable to leave their local Parishes due to family commitments. Usually the ringing has been on the back five bells, and the method Grandsire Doubles. Members of the Company are now reasonably proficient at striking this now! When possible, we also have a quick ring on the front six bells as well.

I should like to record my thanks to Messrs Chittenden-Pile and Moore, who share the driving to Leeds (alternate weeks), and Messrs I & P Renyard who attend Sunday ringing each week without fail. It is to be hoped that as time progresses we will be able to entice other members of the Company to ring at Leeds on Sunday on a regular basis, but unfortunately most of the other members of the Company have commitments in their own parishes, which clash with the ringing times at Leeds.

I have not been able to attend Sunday services as much as I would have liked over the last few months because of the fact that we have to go to Kennington following the Leeds ringing and provide ringing after their service. I also ring at Mersham and Ashford before coming to Leeds, so this makes for quite a busy Sunday. I will continue to attend services in the parish whenever possible in the future, and apologise that I cannot attend more often. It is to be hoped that this is a situation which will resolve itself in the future. I will of course still keep up to date with the events in the Parish, and members of the Company always like to be available for events in the Parish Calendar such as the Harvest Supper, wine & wisdom etc.

With regard to other ringing at Leeds this year, there have been a few visiting ‘outing’ bands, and two or three peals. The Leeds Youths have not performed anything of note on the bells this year past, preferring to concentrate on Sunday Service ringing, and training ringers in other Parishes. As we do not have any probationers in the band at Leeds, we have held only a few practices (generally once monthly on the Second Saturday as London County Association practices) though these have now ceased. During the coming year it is likely that practices will remain occasional at Leeds, unless anyone comes forward wishing to learn the art. The situation is that the Sunday Service ringers ring regularly together at other practices during the week, and so a regular practice is unnecessary at Leeds. Occasional more advanced practices on the ten bells are likely to be held from now on.

As far as other activities of the Company are concerned, the Leeds Youths are linked to The Eastern Trinity Youths of London, who provide occasional ringing at St Dunstan, Stepney; St Paul, Shadwell; St Matthew with St James, Bethnal Green and St John, Deptford. The other connected Society is The Romney Marsh and District Guild of ringers who support the ringing and train ringers at Woodchurch, Mersham, Hothfield and Appledore. The Leeds Youths look after the steeple keeping at Leeds, Mersham, Borden, Woodchurch, Hothfield and Bethnal Green, and together with the Eastern Trinity Youths have been restoring the 180 year old installation of 8 bells at St Paul, Shadwell. Five of the Shadwell bells were rung on January 1st 2001 when members of the company also rang at Sevington, Leeds, Broomfield, and Bethnal Green.

The project at Shadwell is an item of interest in itself, for these bells have not been rung since the mid 1970’s, when a very basic patch-up allowed the bells to be rung on special occasions only. This time, the work has concentrated on retaining as much of the old installation as possible, but replacing worn out parts with exact copies (as far as possible) At the time of writing this report, we are having two new bell wheels made for Shadwell bells, and painting all the metalwork in the tower to preserve it. The bells of Shadwell will hopefully peal out again in the next couple of months, and a grand evensong is to be arranged at Shadwell Church to reopen the bells. All the parishioners of Leeds are invited to attend this service (details to follow)

At Leeds, the bearings have been regularly greased with a mixture of castor oil and lard, which has kept the bells working smoothly. Clappers and rollers have also been greased when required, and all bolts checked regularly and kept tight. There is some movement in the frame when the bells are rung, which is to be expected in a frame of such age, which has very little strengthening. At Mersham 25 bags of birds nests have been removed from the tower recently, and three of the clappers which had worked loose were tightened, thus improving the ‘go’ of those bells.

Because of the amount of work which the Company has been doing in Kent and London over the last year, and what has been described as a ‘Victorian moral code’, it is none too surprising that we should have stirred some controversy in ringing terms. Some mischievous members of The Kent County Association of Change Ringers have been involved in subversive activities in an attempt to rubbish the work which we have done. It has become obvious that they feel threatened by the activities of our Societies. It is difficult to understand why they should feel this away, as The Leeds Youths rules are very different from those of the Kent County Association. It is probable however that members of that Association feel that we should be doing the work in the name of their Association, rather than that of the Leeds Youths. We as a Society have already tried to assist the Kent County Association in years past, and have simply suffered for our efforts. The Leeds Youths does embrace the ideals of a past era, where the ten commandments were rigorously followed, and where etiquette was the keyword of Society. We make no apology for the fact that the Leeds Youths is a male-only Society, because this is just continuing the tradition of the original Leeds Youths, when there were no lady ringers. Ladies are always welcome to ring with the LeedsYouths – there is no restriction, the only restriction is that Ladies may not join the Leeds Youths, which is the choice of members of our Society.

Finally, the year 2001 is the 250th Anniversary of the installation of Leeds Bells, the first peal on the Bells and the founding of the Leeds Youths. There will be a peal - to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the first peal on the bells - by members of the modern day Leeds Youths towards the end of 2001, and the 250th Anniversary Dinner on the same day as the Nine Lessons and Carol Service in December.

I hope the activities of our Companies are agreeable to members of the Parish, and thank you for the support that you have given us over the past year.

I will notify everyone of the 250th Anniversary celebrations later in the year




The year 2001 will go down in the annals of history as a very important landmark in the life of The Ancient Society of Esquire Leeds Youths. On 2nd November 2001, 9 members of the Society met at the Tower. There should have been 10 members present; however one person had misunderstood the arrangements regarding the start time. Thus, one person offered to stand down, and the peal to be attempted was performed on 8 bells, rather than ten, using the same composition. Sadly after 3 hours very good ringing and with less than 5 minutes to go, a couple of ringers went into confusion, and two bells shifted course (that is, swapped over) so that the attempt did not conclude successfully. Five of the ringers in that attempt were full members of the Society (that is regular Sunday service ringers), whereas the others hailed from Appledore and York. Another band of ringers drawn from the Kent County Association were successful with their attempt of the original composition on all ten bells the night before. Thus, well over 10,000 different changes were rung on the heaviest 8 bells (and 6480 on the lightest two) in the space of two days.

Though the Leeds Youths were disappointed at the lack of success with the November peal, the 250th Anniversary Dinner held at The Gate Tower, Leeds Castle on Saturday 15th December was much more successful. Many were unable to come due to the time of year, but those who did attend were entreated to a sumptuous feast in the nobility of the Castle surroundings. Handbells were rung at James Barham’s gravestone (He was the first Master of the Leeds Youths), and the tower bells were also rung on the occasion. After a service at the Church, the Master, Secretary and Superintending Beadle processed to Leeds Castle for the Dinner - the other guests did the sensible thing and went by car -where the loyal toast to the memory of James Barham was drunk, and the National Anthem was sung. Special mention must be made of Mr & Mrs Hardy, who supported us so well at the Dinner, and particularly to Mrs Hardy who played at the Church Service and the Service of Thanksgiving at The Castle, following Dinner. It is always a pleasure to receive support from other members of the Church. The Evening concluded with tune and change ringing on handbells.

The above were the most important events in the Society’s 2001 calendar, but members also rang prior to the Harvest Supper as has become traditional. The opportunity was taken to use this as practice for the peal attempt on November 2nd (mentioned above). There were two successful Quarter Peal attempts in 2001, both by visiting bands, though I was enlisted to the second one, which was therefore rung to mark over 68 years as Verger for Mr S. Russell. An attempt for a Quarter Peal on 9th February 2002 to mark the then forthcoming 87th birthday of Mr S. Russell was unfortunately unsuccessful, though the full time was rung for. The bells were also half-muffled as a token of respect to the Princess Margaret who passed away the previous day. Subsequently two Quarter Peals were rung at Stepney; London, and Rolvenden; Kent, to mark Mr Russell’s birthday, and also the 89th birthday of Mr T. Cullingworth of Maidstone, who has taken part in much ringing at Leeds over the years. A peal of Superlative (No 2) Surprise Royal on all ten bells was achieved on Saturday 2nd February by a visiting group of ringers.

As far as the general Sunday Ringing is concerned (which is of course the proper reason for ringing bells), they have been rung for almost all Sunday Services in the last year. There were about three exceptions to this, where bad weather overcame us, and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where all the regular ringers are engaged in their home parishes. We have generally managed to ring the light six and heavy five bells on Sunday, though sometimes we manage the heavy seven or eight, and twice managed all ten. On one of these occasions, a visiting group of ringers from Derbyshire swelled our numbers to 15, and a very fine ‘touch’ of Stedman Quators was rung before the service.

As always, I should like to record my thanks to Messrs Moore, and Chittenden-Pile for the driving on alternate weeks, and Messrs I & P Renyard who attend each week, almost without fail. We also ring at Ashford prior to Leeds, and afterwards at Hothfield on 1st and 3rd Sundays (which is why I don’t attend service at Leeds on these Sundays).

As usual, many thanks to all who support the Society in its doings, to the inimitable style of friendliness which is forthcoming from the Parishioners, and in thehope that we will continue to achieve our objectives of Service to the Church and the Crown, particularly in this, our Gracious Sovereign’s Golden Jubilee Year. So we continue into the 251st Anniversary year of the Society purposing to maintain standards and traditions. With Thanks,

C.J. Cooper; MASTER.