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Ridgman Success more ways than one

The Lincoln Diocesan Guild was very proud to host the 26th Annual Ridgman Trophy on the back ten of the famous light peal of twelve at St Laurence’s Surfleet on Saturday 15th June 2013.

Ten years ago Surfleet played host to the 2003 National Twelve Bell final so we were confident we could put on a good day for the Ridgman Trophy. For those who do not know, Surfleet bells are a light 12 cwt ring of twelve rung from the ground floor, in a tower which leans considerably away from the Church. They were the world’s lightest peal of twelve from 1932 until 1974 when Accrington were augmented. Surfleet was the home of the famous ringing vicar Reverend Henry Law James who was responsible for restoring the bells and augmenting them to ten in 1913. They were not augmented to twelve until 1932, shortly after Reverend Law James’s death when the two trebles were cast and added in his memory, forming the present peal of twelve. They are not an easy ring of bells due to the light weight of the front bells, the long draft, some oddstruckness, tricky acoustics, and a slanting floor which makes everything feel at sea, so it was decided they would form a good challenge for the teams entering the Ridgman Trophy.

The Ridgman Trophy is a ten bell striking competition for the East of England and was set up in honour of William J. Ridgman, past President of the Cambridge University Guild and past General Secretary of the Ely Diocesan Association. The competition is open to the following 10 Guilds & Associations all located in the East of England

Each year the competition is hosted by a different Guild and this year it was our turn. I think we can safely say we put on a good show and there was plenty to do - something for everyone.

The headquarters for the day when not ringing in the competition was the beer garden of the Mermaid, which is situated across the road opposite the Church next to the river. This was a very pleasant spot to listen to the other teams ringing whilst socialising with friends from far and wide over a beer or two.

In the beer garden there was a marquee with tea and cakes being sold. Anyone who has rung at Surfleet will know that Annette (Tower Captain) bakes fabulous cakes and always looks after us when we visit! So there was an endless supply of delicious home baked cakes!

The day included open ringing at three local towers (Spalding, Pinchbeck & Gosberton) which gave people the chance to sample one of Lincolnshire’s best eight’s - the complete 1926 Taylor eight at Spalding and one of Lincolnshire’s best six’s - the heavy six at Gosberton.

If this was not enough there was also a mini-ring set up in the beer garden (the Maplestead Mini-Ring), thanks to Alistair Donaldson, and there were also boat trips up and down the River Glenn. Also we were entertained to a flypast by the famous Red Arrows flying in formation right over the beer garden, I should say at this point I don’t think this had been planned but was more coincidental, they were probably in fact flying back to RAF Scampton from the flypast over Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Birthday Parade, but even so it was good to see them, and of course we claimed we had organised it especially!

This year 8 teams entered, Lincoln, Peterborough, Norwich, Ely, Cambridge University, Suffolk, Bedfordshire & Essex, so the bells were put to good use being rung all afternoon.

Lincoln was drawn to ring second and we all managed to assemble at the appropriate point at the correct time (which was a good start) listening to the end of the first teams test piece (Essex). We were greeted by the Guild Master, Alan Payne, who gave us a pep talk before going in to ring. He said he would be happy as long as we did not come last or second from last, anything above that would do! As you can probably tell from this we have not done very well in the Ridgman over the past few years, coming last and second from last in the past two competitions, more about this later.

Once we had finished ringing our test piece we could enjoy the rest of the day and relax with a pint or two in the beer garden and listen to the other teams ringing.

The weather was mixed, it was mainly dry for most of the day, but it was quite cool with a chilly breeze, but the sun did make a few appearances. However by the end of the day the heavens opened, in fact it was just as the last band started to ring (Bedfordshire). The thunder and torrential rain started with everyone running to take shelter. You could not hear the bells from the marquee due to the noise of the rain. In fact the Judges had problems too hearing the bells and had to check with the time keeper in Church that the standard of ringing was maintained during one point of the test piece, as they could not hear the bells clearly enough. I don’t know what Bedfordshire had done to upset the big man upstairs and their ringing certainly was not that bad!

It was a shame the rain and thunder started when Bedfordshire was ringing as they were the favourites, winning the competition over the last few years and everyone was trying to hear their ringing without any luck!

Amazingly as Bedfordshire finished ringing their test piece the rain stopped and the sun came out once more so people took the opportunity to dash across to church for the open ringing, this time using all twelve bells prior to the results. Soon we all assembled in the nave to await the judges and the results. The judges this year were Mike Purday & Richard Smith from Cambridgeshire. Liz Jones kindly had the judges in her garden next to the church, and kept them supplied with food and drink throughout the day.

One of the comments about Lincoln’s piece of ringing from the Judges was, we had a good pull off and good confident rounds, and they thought we had been practising (I think they might have worked out that we where the local team!)

And so to the important part of the day, the results in reverse order, we waited with baited breath, had we satisfied the Guild Master and not come last or second from last? Yes we had - phew, we weren’t last or seventh! So where had we come, we waited as the results kept being read out, we hadn’t come sixth or fifth, wow this is sounding good, and we hadn’t come fourth, this is amazing we are in the top three, who would have thought it. We knew that Bedfordshire had had good comments from the Judges and were favourites but could we claim the runners up position? It was between Ely & Lincoln for third place, we waited with fingers crossed hoping we had done enough and then it was announced Ely was third and Lincoln second, and up went a cheer from the Lincoln team! Incredible we had come second, runners up to the favourites, not bad at all and what an improvement on previous years. This is the highest Lincoln has ever come in the Ridgman! (We have achieved 2nd place before, but not in recent years - webmaster)

I think Reverend Law James (the Guild’s first Master who is buried in the Churchyard at Surfleet) would have been very pleased with how we rang and was with us in spirit (Reverend Law James was a stickler for striking).

And so ended a great day, with the icing on the cake being how well we did in the competition. If you weren’t there you missed out, even if you weren’t ringing in a team it was a great sociable day out with lots to do!

Finally I few thank-you’s need to be made. First to the local organisers of the event, especially Annette Rhodes and Philip Green, but I am sure there are many many others of which I do not have names for, so thank you to you ALL for your hard work and organisation on a very successful and enjoyable day. To Surfleet Church authorities & Vicar for the use of the Church & Bells, the Mermaid for the use of the beer garden, the three local towers which were open and the people who manned them, Alistair Donaldson for the mini-ring, to Mike Chapman for providing the boat trips, to Alan Payne as Guild Master and to the ringers in the Lincoln Team plus the supporters and stand ins (John Underwood, Dot Mason, Heather Blacklock, Graham Colborne) but from a ringers point of view thank you to Andrew Blacklock our Team Leader (our Coach!), more about this in a minute.

So here’s to next year! We have set ourselves a big challenged after coming second this year and I wonder what pep talk the Guild Master will give us next year? We have not left ourselves much room for manoeuvre, better get practicing!

The Results were as follows:



Peal Speed




Bedfordshire Association

3hrs 1min




Lincoln Diocesan Guild

3hrs 4mins




Ely Diocesan Association

3hrs 5mins




Norwich Diocesan Association

3hrs 12mins




Peterborough Diocesan Guild

2hrs 59mins




Suffolk Guild

3hrs 19mins




Essex Association

3hrs 5mins




Cambridge University Guild

3hrs 3mins



The Lincoln band was:

(Lincoln Band in order Left to Right)




Emma Southerington



Robin Heppenstall (C)

West Lindsey


Chris Woodcock



Matthew Jeffery



Sandra Underwood



David Fox



Phil Mason



Sue Faull

West Lindsey


Keith Brown

Elloe Deaneries


Les Townsend



A bit about the team and build up prior to the competition

In the past we have not done that well in the Ridgman Trophy, in fact the last two years we have come last and second from last. So this year (especially as we had home advantage as well) Andrew Blacklock offered to take over the reigns and organise the Guild team for the competition with the Guild Masters backing. Andrew got a suitable band together (trying to get the best ringers in the Guild that he could) and started arranging practices for us at Surfleet. Sadly Andrew was unable to ring with us due to a spell of ill health but he still organised us and kept us on the straight and narrow. The practices at Surfleet were very useful and thanks at this point should also be given to Emma Southerington for her constructive feedback at these practices. These sessions allowed us to ring as a team working together and not as individuals, which produced a far more confident and jelled together piece of ringing, you could say we were all singing from the same hymn sheet, we all knew what we were trying to achieve and what we needed to focus on and do to achieve it. In total we only had 3 practices but each time we were getting better and these were enough for us to concentrate and focus on what we needed to do. I should say a big thank-you to John Underwood here who stood in for ringers at the practices when they could not make it, I think John rang at all the practices!

It is clear now that Andrew’s approach was right, being placed second is the best we have ever done in the Ridgman, and I am convinced that without this approached we would not have done anywhere near as well. Andrew said from the outset that we should try and get the best ringers possible for the team and practice together and this certainly paid off, so a big thank-you Andrew for organising us, not an easy thing to do and a logistical nightmare, but we did it. Also thank-you to Emma for her helpful comments and for focusing us as a band. It was a great example of team work and of what can be achieved with the right attitude and approach!

Lincoln is one of only two of the 10 Guilds/Associations which have never won the Ridgman, I think if we keep progressing and keep building on what Andrew has started we could soon put that right - watch this space!

Hopefully this is the start of good things to come for the Lincoln Guild and we can continue to build on it and improve! A big Well Done to all concerned!

Chris Woodcock