Obituaries

Henley William James Hawkins

1915 - 2014

Henley was third child in a family of six. He was born and raised in rural north Somerset; he never lost his accent or modified his dialect. After he left school he worked with horses timber hauling. He also spent some time working for the council and learned to handle steam rollers but for much of his working life he drove a lorry either loaded with timber in the early years or later with tar or concrete. His knowledge of roads, estates and maps stayed with him well into his eighties.

His introduction to bell ringing came when the family moved to Kilmersdon in 1947 to look after his father-in-law, Frank Dredge, when Frank’s wife died. Frank taught him to ring and also handed over to him the duties of keeping the bells in good order, winding and maintaining the church clock, looking after the churchyard and grave digging. Henley continued with these jobs very conscientiously until he moved to Gloucester to live with his daughter at the end of the eighties.

Henley was essentially a 6-bell ringer. He mastered methods up to Cambridge Minor and was an excellent treble ringer and it was seldom he did not treble up and down. Few could compare with his loyalty in attending practices and Sunday ringing.

He taught his three children, his son-in-law and one daughter-in-law to ring along with many of the village children. His wife, Muriel did not ring but she regularly and readily supplied after-ringing suppers and great hospitality to bands from Gloucester and Penrith when they visited with one or other of the family.

Probably Henley’s proudest moment in his ringing career was in July 1981 when as a member of the “B” team along with his son-in-law, Peter Gould and Peter’s 14-year-old daughter, Rachel they won the Bath and Wells Association 6-bell striking competition at Axbridge against all the odds. He was also very happy when seven members of his family plus the groom’s godmother rang a touch at his grandson’s wedding at Sopley, Hampshire in 1995. Another great moment was his other grandson’s wedding at Coventry Cathedral in 2004 and he and family members including the groom rang the bells there after the marriage service.

Henley was surprised and delighted at the welcome he received from the ringers of Gloucester Branch. He rang regularly at Maisemore, Upton St Leonards and Brockworth often making up the numbers for weddings and funerals at other towers. He kept up his ringing well into his late eighties; occasionally ringing a quarter peal at Maisemore or Brockworth. He maintained his interest until a stroke in 2011. Many of his bell ringing friends attended his funeral and several quarter peals were rung in Gloucester and his former home area in his memory.

FRANCES MULVEY

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers