25th October 1939 – 22nd January 2013

Tony Baines, a well known bellhanger from Norfolk and a former Norwich Diocesan Bells Advisor, died on 22nd January from lung and bone cancer at the age of 73. The cancer was only diagnosed three months earlier and up until that point he was still working in church towers and enjoying walks with the dogs. He leaves behind a legacy in the church bell world which few can equal. Over the years he worked in some 190 towers and hung approximately 500 bells. He mainly specialized in single bells, as he liked to help small parishes who had very little money, but he also restored many rings of bells in Norfolk and Suffolk, most of which can easily be identified by his trade-mark metal rope spider in the shape of a bell.

Tony did not come from a bell ringing background. He was born in Bootle, Liverpool where he learned about early mornings and hard work from a very young age, helping with the family dairy business, delivering milk before going to school and serving in the “open all hours” corner shop when he got home. His parents dreamed of “escaping to the country” for a better life for their family and encouraged Tony to seek a career in farming. In those days it was not possible to go straight to Agricultural College from school, it was necessary to do a year’s practical on a farm beforehand. The farm that was chosen was in the village of Danehill in Sussex, which was run by the Butler family. Here he gained the necessary experience in livestock and arable farming and caught the eye of the farmer’s 9-year-old daughter, Betty, though probably more as a target for her water pistol than anything romantic.

After a year at Rease Heath Agricultural College in Cheshire, Tony moved with his parents and two sisters to Bressingham in Norfolk, were he worked for a while on the family small holding but money was tight and it became necessary for him and his dad to take part time jobs repairing bikes at Cobbs Cycle Shop in Diss. Tony enjoyed an active social life, being a member of the Young Farmers, played rugby for Diss Rugby Club and was the Chairman of the Young Conservatives. It was while attending a Young Conservatives meeting in London that he made a brief visit back to Sussex and found Betty had grown up and soon love blossomed.

Tony moved back to Sussex in January 1963 at the height of the really bad snow storms. The roads were impassable and he had to walk to and from the railway stations, three miles at the outset of the journey and seven miles at the other end. He soon became a valued member of the staff working on the family farm, doing everything from milking cows to driving the combine but he soon found he had a natural gift for repairing and servicing machinery.

By this time Betty was a well established bell ringer at Danehill and soon persuaded Tony to try his hand. She taught him on Sunday afternoons in between lowering each bell, which had been left up after service ringing in the morning. This, as you can imagine, took quite a time and Tony was progressing well, but it all came to an abrupt end when a red faced vicar appeared at the door, demanding them to stop as unbeknown to Betty and Tony there was a service going on down below. They were duly banned from ringing for several months.

Betty and Tony were married at All Saints Church, Danehill on 18th September, 1965 and their sons Mark and Kevin were born in 1967 and 1969 respectively. In 1970, seeking a more independent life for themselves and their young family, Tony and Betty moved to Norfolk and after nine months living in a small touring caravan eventually moved into the then derelict Algars Farm on the outskirts of Diss, which they lovingly restored and have lived in for the past 42 years. Using the skills Tony had picked up in the farm workshop, his career moved further into engineering. He became a coded welder and after several fabricating jobs, advanced into making equipment for the oil industry.

His career as a bell hanger was probably due to his friendship with Dr. Paul Cattermole. It was Paul who suggested that Tony should hang the single bell at Roydon, near Diss. The bell came from Erpingham to replace the poor sounding school-type bell. Paul’s next suggestion was that he might like to tackle the ring of six bells at Blo Norton, which had been out of action for many years due to a rotten wooden frame. Tony replaced the damaged section with steel and rehung the bells. Many more towers followed including Palgrave, a ring of eight just over the border into Suffolk. Then came Bressingham a project very dear to his heart, having lived in the village for several years. Here he joined a team led by Chris Beesley and with the aid of Paul Cattermole, Aubrey Forster, Ian Grandfield and John Taylors of Loughborough, the old bells were removed, two trebles were cast and Tony made the steel frame and donated it as a tribute to his family. Not only was this a monumental achievement, great friendships were forged between the helpers, which became even stronger as history and fate was to prove. Sadly Chris Beesley was also diagnosed with lung cancer and died the same day as Tony.

Tony had a very good working relationship with some of the leading bell hangers in the country. He joined forces with John Taylor making the frames and hanging the bells at Carleton Rode, Martham and East Rudham, and similarly Tostock with Eyre & Smith, New Buckenham with Whites of Appleton and Tibenham, Bacton, Redenhall and Long Stratton with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. His son Kevin was always on hand to help him and together they made several bell frames for Whitechapel, when they were too busy to make them for themselves, some of which were exported to the USA. Tony was also pleased to be able to make all the fittings for the Norwich bell sent to Norwich USA. His final ring of bells was Garboldisham, which with the help of Ian Grandfield was carried out on a shoe string. Former tower captain Sam Flatman donated the ball bearings and Tony provided the headstocks and other fittings, plus the labour and know-how.

Although Tony’s main passion was for the engineering side of bell ringing, he did enjoy ringing when his aches and pains allowed. He was not very keen on peal ringing, though he did ring four peals for the Norwich Diocesan Association and one or two for the Suffolk Guild and the Sussex Association. He much preferred to ring quarters but they usually had to be for something special although he could always be tempted to ring the tenor behind to Stedman Triples. He was a great support to Betty when she was President of the Ladies Guild and was even given a badge to wear which read “President’s Chauffeur”. He also enjoyed going on bell ringing holidays with the Norfolk and Suffolk Border Ringers, the Mere Ringers and the Ladies Guild and could be relied upon to be the first person up the tower to the bells if there were any problems.

Tony’s funeral took place on 11th February at Diss. The bells were rung half muffled and he was carried into and out of the church by his two sons, his nephew and three of his grandsons. The ringers hymn was sung as he was carried down the aisle. Donations in his memory amounted to £2,100 which was divided equally between the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers Bell Restoration Fund, The Swaledale Mountain Rescue and the Priscilla Bacon Lodge Support Group.

As much as Tony loved his work, it was his family, friends, dogs and Yorkshire that took precedence. He was immensely proud of his sons Mark and Kevin, his daughters-in-law Sharna, Carolyn and Su and his grandchildren Kieran, Aaron, Shaylen, Connor, Billy, Molly and Joe. He and Betty were extremely grateful to Jenny and Aubrey Forster for their friendship, compassion and for introducing them to Yorkshire. He was never happier than when he was walking in the hills with his four collie dogs, and it was his wish that his ashes should be scattered above Gunnerside in Swaledale. Therefore on a sunny morning in March, with snow all around, the entire family, together with Jenny, Aubrey and the four dogs climbed the hill to his favourite spot.

Tony will be sadly missed by all who knew and loved him but he will not be forgotten. His legacy of bells will sound out in the villages of East Anglia for many years to come.



Allestree, Derbys. (The Green Ring) 30 Jan, 1250 Norwich S Minor: 1 Elizabeth Cotton, 2 Alec Humphrey, 3 Frances Haynes, 4 Nick Daines, 5 Caroline Peverett, 6 Anthony Cotton (C). Rung in thanksgiving for the life of Tony Baines, who built the frame for this mobile mini-ring with great expertise.

Diss, Norfolk. 11 Feb, 1260 Grandsire Triples: 1 Josephine Beever, 2 David J Paddison, 3 Mary Allum, 4 Aubrey S Forster, 5 Gilbert Larter, 6 Neil Thomas, 7 Michael H Hodgkinson (C), 8 Adrian J Edwards. Rung half muffled prior to the funeral of Tony Baines, steeple keeper at St Mary’s, Diss by a band of friends and colleagues.

Bressingham, Norfolk. 19 Feb, 1260 PB Doubles: 1 Edward Curson (C), 2 Sheila Curson, 3 Yvonne Lowe, 4 Ian Grandfield, 5 John Goodwin, 6 Norma Groves. Rung in memory of Chris Beesley and Tony Baines. Chris organized the rehanging of these bells and Tony made and donated the frame and helped with its installation and hanging of the bells.

Blo Norton, Norfolk. 22 Feb, 1260 PB Doubles: 1 Edward Curson (C), 2 David Lowe, 3 Yvonne Lowe, 4 Andrew Wittle, 5 John Goodwin, 6 Anthony Abbs. Rung in memory of Chris Beesley and Tony Baines. Tony Baines rehung these bells and Chris Beesley rang here regularly.

Diss, Norfolk. 24 Feb, 1280 Lincolnshire Surprise Major: 1 Gudrun Warren, 2 Jeremy Warren, 3 David J Paddison, 4 Betty Baines, 5 Stephen V S Bounds, 6 Adrian J Edwards, 7 Daniel Denton, 8 Adrian C Malton (C). Rung before evensong in memory of Tony Baines, who died on 22nd January 2013.

Danehill, Sussex. 13 Mar, 1260 Doubles (3m): 1 Kerry Luckhurst, 2 Sonia Harriyott, 3 Susan Hollyman, 4 Andrew Hough, 5 Peggy Penfold (C), 6 Chris Rusling. Rung by a local band in memory of Tony Baines, a former member of Danehill band.

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