Frank lived most of his life in Bunwell, South Norfolk having been born in Tacolneston, three miles down the road. Frank was taught to ring by his father, who was a ringer and chorister at St Michael & All Angels, Bunwell, when he was a teenager. In April 1944, when he could only just handle a bell, Frank had the luck to be working at the house of Wilfred G. Saunders and conversation flowed between them after Frank noticed a Norwich Diocesan Association Membership Certificate hanging on the wall. This chance meeting led to him being welcomed at the practice nights at Wilfred’s home tower in New Buckenham, and then to his acquaintance with John R. Smith. John also lived in New Buckenham and herein began a life long friendship and involvement in ringing.

When Frank was ‘called up’ to do National Service and whilst stationed away from home, he travelled to local towers to ring whenever he could, even though at that time he had not made much progress in method ringing. On his return to Norfolk in 1947 Frank started ringing in earnest and joined the Bunwell band that Frank Phillippo had re-formed a year or so earlier. This band consisted of similarly inexperienced ringers, and although they had the invaluable help of Charles Goodman, who came over from nearby Mulbarton to assist them, they were largely self-taught. Having joined the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers, on l7th May 1948 Frank rang his first peal on the treble at Mulbarton, conducted by the late Arthur J. Smalls. By the early 1950s the Bunwell band was ringing peals in seven methods, with a conductor from within its own ranks.

Frank joined the Suffolk Guild prior to a peal at Rickinghall on 4th July 1953. In the following 51 years he rang 418 peals for the Guild. He was, at the time, by far and away the most prolific non-resident Guild member. He rang at 122 different Suffolk towers including great rarities like Clopton, Covehithe, Baylham and Thelnetham. Amongst his favourite towers were Wilby, Oakley, Brandeston and Tannington which gives some clue as to whom he rang with. Whilst in the early days Leslie Bailey, Fred Gunton and H. William Barrett featured heavily, in 1968 he started ringing with J. Martin Thorley. This introduced him to Pat and Trevor Bailey and Martin’s regular peal band. With Martin he rang a rich and diverse selection of methods and peals. Martin, David and Katharine Salter, Robin and Mary Allum and Ian Mayle, were all regular participants in Frank’s peals in Suffolk. Of particular note is a peal at Thornham Magna in 1965 where Frank was privileged to ring a peal with George Symonds.

On September 19th 1992 Frank gained the distinction of ringing his 1,000th peal, at St Nicholas’ Church, South Lopham; a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major. This was followed on 31st August 2001, at his home tower of Bunwell, by his 1,000th peal for the Norwich Diocesan Association. In all, Frank rang 1,028 N.D.A. peals, which was a significant achievement, in an era when transport was less freely available and opportunities were restricted to the immediate locality of Norfolk and Suffolk. His last peal was also at Bunwell, for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar, on Friday, 21st October 2005. Most notably, 50 of his peals were rung at Long Stratton, where he held the record of ringing in consecutive Christmas Eve peals from 1955 to 2004.

Frank rang a wide selection of methods for the N.D.A. and Suffolk Guild on all numbers including his only 12 bell peal of Grandsire Cinques at Grundisburgh on 31st December 1997. Whilst peal ringing was a major feature of his ringing life, Frank was also an enthusiastic and patient teacher who was keen to maintain the tradition of Sunday service ringing and regular practice nights at Bunwell. He was always willing to give his time to help out where an extra pair of hands was needed, at a wedding, for a quarter peal, or at another tower on its practice night. However, his devotion to his own tower was absolute, and he expected and received the same loyalty from his own band. Most of the present day Bunwell benefice ringers were taught by Frank and when Carleton Rode bells were being restored he taught their ringers at Bunwell so that they could ring when the new bells were ready. Despite all his ringing achievements, it was a source of some sadness to him that after Tacolneston bells were restored, he never had the opportunity to ring a peal on the bells in the village where he was born.

Frank served as a Norwich Diocesan Association representative of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers from 1978 to 1990 and was elected as a Vice President of the Association in 1989. He was the Southern Branch Ringing Master from 1968 to 1969, served as Southern Branch Secretary from 1970 to 1987 and Chairman of the Southern Branch from 1989 to 1992.

Frank’s contribution to village life extended beyond ringing, having been for many years a churchwarden and PCC member of Bunwell Church, a parish councillor, taking his turn as Chairman, a member of the Old and New Buckenham Branch of the British Legion, active in the local bowls club, a keen gardener and a devoted family man. None of Frank’s achievements could have taken place without the loyal and loving support of Molly his wife, his two daughters and wider family.

After a period of poor health Frank Charles John Arnold died on 7th September 2010, aged 83. He will be remembered as a quiet, kind and modest man with high principles who will be sorely missed and remembered with great affection by many.

B.C.

With thanks to Anita Wilson and Chris Hales for material supplied to write this obituary.

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers