Obituaries

Arthur Newton

25th December 1911 - 15th June 2011

Arthur was born at Chulmleigh in Devon, the fifth of ten children. At the age of 15, he left home and was employed as a domestic servant by the vicar of the church in Lancaster Gate, London. Just over a year later, he moved to take up similar employment at Wanborough, near Swindon, where he met someone whose father was a ringer at nearby Bishopstone. This resulted in Arthur’s first bell handling lesson.

Returning to live and work in the Chulmleigh area, he progressed his ringing skills as a member of the band there. Perhaps this grounding gave him a love of good call changes and, more especially, of raising and lowering in peal. His next move was to High Wycombe, where his elder brother, Percy, was already ringing at Hughenden. Arthur soon joined the band and rang regularly there for over 70 years.

He married May in 1937. They had two children (Meryl and Robert), three grandchildren and two great grandsons. Family holidays were often taken in Devon and a visit to his roots in Chulmleigh was usually included in the itinerary. He was grateful for the opportunity to return there for short holidays twice in his 90s. May had passed away in 2002 but Arthur continued to live in the family home, virtually independently until he was 98 and with support for the last year.

Arthur’s working life was quite varied. During WW2 he constructed training aircraft for the Miles company at Woodley, near Reading. It was here that he met Albert Diserens and was invited to handbell practices. Later, he worked in the furniture and associated industries as a toolmaker and woodworker. These were occasionally hard times with redundancies and a great deal of ‘going without’. Seeking greater job security, he applied for a technician’s post at High Wycombe College of Further Education and retired as head of the college’s Print Room.

He rang 191 peals altogether (126 of them at Hughenden), including 17 on ten or twelve (eleven of them at High Wycombe) and four for the ASCY. His last peal was in 1996 and he rang his last quarter peal for his 90th birthday in December 2001. Although he had hoped to get back to regular ringing, he had not rung at all for about six years. This was partly because he could not manage the stairs, or stand unsupported, but also because, with his hearing loss, ‘the bells didn’t sound right any more’. Two of the peals of which he was most proud were rung at Chulmleigh: Grandsire Triples in 1933 (the first on the bells) in which his father and two brothers took part, and Stedman forty years later, the band including his brother and son. When his hearing was more acute, Arthur had enjoyed listening to striking competitions and had enjoyed a fair degree of success in ODG events himself. Never one to put himself forward for office, Arthur was persuaded to serve the East Berks & South Bucks Branch as Ringing Master and Deputy RM. He was always ready to help, advise and encourage less experienced ringers.

Following his death, specially arranged ringing in his three favourite methods took place: 1299 Stedman Triples at High Wycombe, a quarter peal of Double Norwich at Hughenden on the morning of the funeral and Grandsire Caters on handbells during the funeral service. It was fitting that he had been able to visit Hughenden Church, for the final time prior to his passing, in his wheelchair
at Easter.

Many kind tributes have been paid to this ‘perfect gentleman’ who was totally unselfish, easy-going and so interested in others to the very end of his long life. May he rest in peace.

ROBERT NEWTON

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers