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Belfry News from Elloe - July 2016

"The Battle of Boothby Pagnell"

St Andrews Church dates to 1086 when it was mentioned in Doomsday Book, but we must proceed forward through the centuries to the year 1900 in order to recount this tale. The church had been, over the period 1895 to 1897, extensively altered and restored according to the wishes of a Mrs Annie Thorold at a cost to herself of £10,000, equivalent to about £750,000 in todayís money. Work included structural alterations, stained glass windows, marble imported from Italy, and a new electric organ by a Mr Robert Hope Jones, powered by batteries, which unfortunately tended to run flat before the end of services. This problem was resolved when the organ was rebuilt and converted to mains operation by Norman and Beard in 1904. Annie must have been an advocate of high church ceremonies as this was not acceptable to certain low church men, known as "Kensitites" and in 1900 a group of these cycled from Grantham with the intention of smashing sanctuary lamps and other decorations. However, the parishioners of Boothby knew of their approach and as the cyclists came within range opened up with a devastating barrage of rotten eggs and ripe tomatoes. Whether Mrs Thorold was involved in this fracas is not recorded, but I would like to think that she did indeed fling a few tomatoes in defence of her work. Suffice it to say that the locals won the day, though on a more serious note, a revolver was wrested from one of the Kensitites and later hung in the vestry, one assumes as a sort of war trophy. This later disappeared for 55 years before being found under the organ and handed to the police.

I only became aware of these happenings on Friday July 8th, when Tony Walker and myself, from Gedney, participated in a quarter peal, 17 methods mixed doubles, rung to celebrate the 21st birthday of Eleanor, daughter of Andrew Usbourne, Tower Captain at Boothby. Interestingly the bells on which we rang were only installed in 2008, being transferred from Aisthorpe, a redundant church, though the frame in which they are hung was installed in 1897, another result of Mrs Thorold's generosity. After the ringing, Andrew showed me a faded photograph of her. Putting on my glasses I saw a woman, elegant in her Victorian finery. What was she like, this munificent and no doubt strong willed woman? I shall never know, but on looking at her sepia-like portrait I was certain about one aspect of her character - she had a lovely face.

John Bennett - Gedney Tower