6th December 1960 – 22nd January 2013

Chris Beesley died peacefully at home in Orwell, Cambridgeshire on 22nd January at the age of 52 after a long and brave battle against lung cancer. Chris was born on 6th December 1960, the elder son of Frank and Doreen Beesley. He lived with his parents at West Bridgford, Notts until the age of five when they moved to Wymondham, Norfolk.

The family became involved at Wymondham Abbey with Chris’s father running the Wednesday Club for children in the Abbey schoolrooms along with Mr Jacobs, the abbey curate. Chris joined the club when he was about ten years old, at which time Gill Knox was already a member. Chris and Gill learnt to ring at Wymondham in their early teens, and Chris was soon ringing for Sunday services. They were taught by Tom Spight and Harry Tooke who, a year or so later, also taught Chris’s younger brother, Paul.

When Chris was aged fifteen, the family moved back to Nottinghamshire, this time settling in Mansfield. Chris joined the local band, run at that time by Fred and Florrie Adcock and rang there regularly until he left home. He attended Sherwood Hall School and it was here that he met Julie Pinder. Before long, Julie had been persuaded to join the group of learners being taught to ring by Chris and the others. Chris rang his first peal, Plain Bob Major, at Mansfield in 1978.

In 1979, Chris won a place to study physics at Bristol University and it was here that Chris and the writer met. We were on the same course and both stayed in Hiatt Baker hall of residence for all three years. It was at Hiatt Baker that one of Chris’s near neighbours returned from a weekend away to find that his room had been converted into an indoor fish pond, complete with goldfish; a stunt that was to be repeated many years later when newly-weds Neil and Nikki Thomas left their house keys for safe- keeping with the Beesleys when they went away on honeymoon.

Chris joined the University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers and regularly attended practices and Sunday service ringing at St Michael on the Mount, Without, the society tower. Julie was a regular weekend visitor from Surrey University. In his third year, Chris was elected society steeple-keeper and it was perhaps here that his interest in bell maintenance and restoration was kindled. His project to restart the tower clock after many years of inactivity was, however, soon abandoned when he discovered that the main drive-shaft was cracked.

We graduated in 1982, Chris ringing his one and only society peal to mark the occasion. Chris moved to Paignton to join Standard Telephones and Cables, the start of a very successful career in micro-electronics, in particular fibre-optic communications, which was then very much in its infancy but now forms the backbone of the internet. He rang at various towers in the Newton Abbot area.

Chris and Julie continued to ring at Mansfield whenever they returned home to see their parents and they were married there in August 1984, settling in Beighton, Norfolk. Initially, they rang at South Walsham and Ranworth but their attention soon switched to Acle, a ring of six where the metal bell frame, independent of the round tower, extends all the way down to the ground floor ringing chamber, making ringing there ‘Interesting’. In spite of this, they took on the challenge of teaching a band of teenagers to ring, including Lizzie High (later Cotton). Life-long friendships were forged with other ringers in the area, including Neil and Nikki Thomas, Aubrey and Jenny Forster, and Teresa Roberts (later Jones).

In 1989, Chris joined Hewlett Packard in Ipswich, which entailed them moving to Bressingham, Norfolk; it was while living here that their son John was born in 1992 followed by their daughter Claire in 1996. At that time, the bells at the parish church had not been rung full-circle since the previous century and had been hung dead for the previous 50 years, and so, while Chris and Julie chimed the bells for services, they rang at various other local towers, mainly South Lopham and Garboldisham. Their near-neighbour John Oates, a non-ringer, was most keen for Bressingham bells to be restored to full-circle ringing and before he died, leaving a substantial bequest, he asked Chris to manage the restoration project. The fund-raising brought the whole village together, with the summer barn dances at Blooms, the local steam museum and gardens, being remembered with particular fondness. Chris saw the project to a successful conclusion and the bells were dedicated in August 1995 (see Ringing World 1995/p1165), at which time Chris and Julie were training a band of nine novice ringers.

In 2000, another change in job saw the Beesley family moving to Buckland Monachorum, Devon. Spurred on by their impending move, Chris and Julie organised the first ever recorded peal at Bressingham, with both of them taking part, along with Betty Baines (who, with husband Tony, had donated the frame in memory of their parents) and Paul Cattermole, who conducted. In the event, this was Chris’s tenth and final peal.

In Devon, they joined the local call-change band, where Derek Diggins was tower captain, and also regularly rang methods at nearby Whitchurch. Chris also organised monthly method-ringing practices at Buckland. The writer was somewhat envious to find that Chris had taken part in a test ring at Sampford Spiney, a precursor to the successful restoration project that was later to take place there. It was while living at Buckland that John learnt to handle a bell, although he didn’t take it any further.

With a view to long-term job security, Chris joined Domino Printing Sciences, Cambridge, as Programme Director in 2006. This entailed a weekly commute until the family moved to Orwell, Cambridgeshire in 2007. Chris and Julie joined the local band, where, as well as supporting the teaching of learners, Chris was pleased to have the opportunity to ring some more advanced methods, such as London and Bristol Surprise Major, for the first time in many years.

And so it was in May 2011 that Chris, at 50 years old and having never smoked, was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. With typical spirit, he was determined to delay the disease’s outcome for as long as possible. Indeed, he was still ringing the occasional quarter peal long after the gloomiest predictions. In January 2012, he returned to Bressingham for the last time for the unveiling of the peal board recording the first peal. Not simply a peal board, but a permanent record of the whole restoration project, it was crafted by Aubrey Forster and donated by Chris and Julie.

John was by this time studying at the University of East Anglia, Norwich and it was here that he took up ringing again, being taught by Neil and Nikki Thomas and friends as a special surprise for his father.

Julie nursed Chris at home and it was there that he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family. His funeral, and service of thanksgiving for his life, took place at Orwell parish church on 1st February. The church was packed, with standing room only well before the service started. At Chris’s request, an invited band, drawn from his many ringing friends over a period of 40 years, rang 10 minutes of ‘whole pull and stand’ before the service. The service was a most sad but, nonetheless, uplifting occasion with three wonderful tributes given by his son John, Hugh de Lacy, a work colleague, and Edward Curson, who took over as tower captain from Chris at Bressingham. Neil Thomas tolled the tenor during the committal in the churchyard after which there was open ringing. Afterwards, at the reception at Sheene Mill, Melbourn, there wasn’t even standing room; the ringers, arriving slightly later than everyone else, had to queue to get in with people overflowing into the gardens. A peal was rung in Chris’s memory at Meldreth on the day of his funeral (see Ringing World 2013 p181).

Chris made an immediate impression on, and was well regarded by, all who met him. He was bright, energetic and enthusiastic but at the same time very modest about his abilities and achievements. He was kind, warm and full of fun, with a mischievous sense of humour. But first and foremost, Chris was a family man. The Beesleys are a very close, loving family of whom Chris was immensely proud. We, and they especially, miss him enormously and we offer Julie, John and Claire our love, support and prayers as they mourn their loss.

Assembled by
from contributions kindly provided by
Julie Beesley, Gill Knox, Edward Curson
and from his own recollections

The Beesleys moved into Orwell at the beginning of June 2007. They were soon in the tower and making their weight felt as keen and competent ringers, inspiring the locals out of their easeful complacency! They were splendidly supportive, especially for service ringing, and were of course immediately popular and improved the social cohesion of the tower.

Chris was impressive in the way he would tackle a new method with alacrity, without fuss, and ring his first blows often without so much as a wobble – even for a quarter. He rang his first quarter (Grandsire Triples) with us on 2nd September 2007 when Julie covered. He said he was unfamiliar with Surprise Major but in February 2008 he rang his first quarter of Rutland very well. From then on he went from strength to strength ringing about 20 quarters in Orwell, including one or two of Stedman while he was between chemotherapy sessions. Such was his fortitude when he was ill that he volunteered to come to practice to assist, even though not strong enough to handle a bell.

For the record, Chris rang inside in at least thirteen quarters of Surprise Major at Orwell, of which seven were up to 6-spliced (CYNSPR) and four were Bristol. He also rang in some quarters at Our Lady and the English Martyrs (OLEM) in Cambridge.

One of the nicest of men, Chris was a great asset to the village. He was someone we admired tremendously and who will be profoundly missed.


Orwell, Cambridgeshire


see also Derby D.A. handbell peal rung at Allestree on 29/1/13 and Ely D.A. peal rung at Meldreth on 1/2/13.

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