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Walton's handbell ringers

Photograph taken Christmas 1906 by Rev Monty Bird on the Walton rectory lawn.

The following report was written Montague Bird and originally published in the Deanery Magazine, then reprinted in a collection of extracts of his writings published in 2000.

    The Rector's witty style of writing is evident here with one of his many reports about the Christmas handbells:

    January 1907

    The fireside repose of the good folks of Walton and the peaceful slumbers of the their innocent infants were disturbed on Christmas Eve by weird sounds of tinkling cymbals proceeding apparently from small stars near the ground.

    Investigation proved this strange phenomenon to be the juvenile band of handbell ringers busy at work, each with his own small electric light. They were Fred Beeby, Albert Green, Edward Giles, Arthur Giles, and Percy Green, and they covered themselves with glory, and did great credit to their conductor. To ring handbells well is not as easy as it looks, but the boys had taken great pains and worked hard, and through their practices had only extended for about six weeks, they were able to ring ten different pieces very well indeed, and as a result they did much to brighten up our Christmas.

nerdy footnote

For each of the boys to have their 'own small electric light' was something of a novelty as hand-held battery-powered torches had only been invented seven years before. No doubt Rev Monty Bird was an early adopter of such an innovation and provided the necessary number of torches.

In 1899, English inventor David Misell invented the first electric torch. It had three D-size batteries placed in a tube that acted as a handle of the device.

David Misell's patent application

The first dry cell battery was invented in 1887. Unlike previous batteries, it used a paste electrolyte instead of a liquid. This was the first battery suitable for portable electrical devices, as it did not spill or break easily and worked in any orientation.

The 1899 Eveready flashlight. The main body is a cardboard tube.

Early torches ran on zinc-carbon batteries, which could not provide a steady electric current and required periodic 'rest' to continue functioning. Because these early flashlights also used energy-inefficient carbon-filament bulbs, 'resting' occurred at short intervals. Consequently, they could be used only in brief flashes, hence the common North American name 'flashlight'.

The tungsten filament bulb was essential to turn the flashlight from a novelty to a useful tool.

see also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashlight

Three sets of handbells?

When Walton school closed in 1935 pupils walked across the fields to Prestwold before Burton school opened in 1966. Perhaps the Walton handbells went to Prestwold? But if anyone in Walton has a set of hand bells in the back of a cupboard then do let the WHO know!

Burton school has a set of handbells (which were restored about ten years ago) but these seem to be a different set. There is a brief reference to Wymeswold school once having a set of handbells too.


Thanks to Louise Jackson, Hellen Jarvis, Joan Shaw and Cath Thomson for photographs and information about the schools and bells.

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