For many years, the tower of St George’s Bickley contained a stationary clock chime. After the fire of 1989 which destroyed the lower part of the tower and caused extensive damage to the body of the church, a ring of 6 was installed in a frame for 8 and dedicated along with the rest of the reconstructed building in 1991. The trebles (completing the octave) were cast and installed in 1993 as part of the Lewisham District Centenary celebrations. The late great Philip Corby had been DAC Advisor for Bells in the Rochester Diocese and a prime mover in making the installation happen and said at the time of the 1991 dedication “What a lovely six, but won’t they make a splendid eight” – but he sadly didn’t live to see this come to fruition. He became one of three people the trebles were cast in memory of – along with Philip Irwin (who passed away tragically, having been deeply involved in training the new Bickley band) and Michael Sanderson (Churchwarden and one of the new band) – and the inscriptions on the trebles bear all three names.
The first peal was rung in 1996 by a band made up of some of those who had been involved in teaching the new ringers at Bickley, along with Lucile Corby (Phil’s widow) and Tom Barlow (who until just beforehand had been Association Chairman) and Jeremy Clitheroe as one of the newly taught ringers. For varying reasons of a local nature, a peal board could not for a while be installed in commemoration. However, by 2015 this proved to be possible, and I was asked by Bickley PCC (via Jeremy) to place an order for the peal board to be made.
The board was dedicated during Mass on Sunday 28 February 2016, almost 20 years after the event! Of the original peal band, David Kingston passed away in 2012 and Frank Lewis in 2015. Andrew Young, now living in Leicester was unfortunately not able to attend, but Catherine Lewis joined the remaining peal band members on Frank’s behalf, and Tom Barlow (who has been through serious health issues in recent times and made a remarkable recovery) was accompanied by his wife Jacqui. Methods rung before the service were Stedman Doubles (as was the first touch on the bells after the 1991 dedication) and Cambridge Surprise Minor (the method rung for the first quarter peal). The Vicar (Father Richard Norman) dedicated the board after the celebration of Communion and anointed it with Holy Water, with the peal band members standing by in front of the congregation. The board will shortly be erected in the ringing room.
The Bickley band that was taught in the early 1990s has sadly whittled away. However, the bells ringing before this Mass, along with the “heads-up” this peal board has given, appears to have started to generate much interest in the growing mixed age congregation at St George’s – Fr Richard (himself once having learned to handle a bell) is very keen for the bells to be rung more, particularly for Service. It is hoped to shortly start training a new band for Bickley.