Bicker Peal Board Commemorating Fallen Soldier 1916
Friday 16th June 2017 saw Dave & I following Gladys [our SAT NAV] supported by written directions, through the busy roads of Bath, seeking a hidden workshop of an artisan sign writer/peal board artist, situated somewhere under the railway arches of the old GWR. With the river Avon on the left & the arches on the right my thoughts turned to the catastrophic world events over a century ago, and how come this led to 2 Lincolnshire bell ringers visiting Bath at this particular time.
It was exactly 101 years and 9 days ago to the day that a Bicker bell ringer, Rifleman Richard Bloodworth Machin, was killed fighting for King & country during WW1. The 100th anniversary of his death was commemorated at his home tower, St Swithunís, with a peal rung of Double Norwich Court Bob Major. This was followed up with "Letters Home" in 3 consecutive 2016 issues of the Bicker Magazine. So why did this lead Dave & I to Bath?
Following the peal & the interest created by the anniversary of the death of this local boy, I was approached by St. Swithunís PCC about the possibility of having a peal board made to commemorate this event and to leave a record for posterity. Following recommendations from 2 local towers who had had peal boards made I made tentative enquires as to styles available today, bearing in mind that many peal boards in existence were painted in the time prior to the technological advances of digital printing. The hardest choice was - do we go for modern printing or do we go for traditional skills? After much tooing & frowing with emails to several artists it was November before a decision was made. The artist we chose was Maggie Willans, based in Bath & a traditional Peal Board Sign Writer. For me the fact that she recognised the work of George Pipe as being the maker and sign writer of the Bicker peal board from the photo I sent to her was the deciding factor. The order was placed in December after the wording had been approved by the PCC & the ringing band of 8 who rang Richardís peal.
A peal board takes many man/woman hours of work so it was not surprising that Maggie preferred to have her work collected, rather than rely on commercial delivery methods! The board was finished in April, much quicker than her 6 month time span quoted. So here we were in June, in Bath, concluding the mission.
Many thanks to the St. Swithunís PCC & to Bicker Parish Council for funding the peal board for such a unique commemoration. You can view the peal board in the church until the end of September, when it will be hung with the rest of the peal boards in Bicker Ringing Tower at St Swithunís church.