Obituaries

Peter Baker

8th February 1925 - 15th July 2011

Peter began his ringing career in 1939 at London’s Kingsbury Church with bell handling instruction from Tower Captain Mr Folly. By the time his parents moved to Station Road, Bishops Cleeve in December 1940, he was able to master full bell control, the initial stages of bell ringing.

During the War, bells were silenced throughout the country. In 1945, Revd Jesson, the then vicar of St Michael’s, put a note in the Parish Magazine encouraging bell ringers to come forward to ring out the joyous times ahead following the dark ages of recent years. Bishops Cleeve was only a small village at this time and it was often difficult to get the numbers needed for practice ringing, so in order to improve his ringing skills, Peter decided to attend St Mary’s Parish Church, Cheltenham where he gained his steadfast knowledge of method ringing while continuing to ring at Bishops Cleeve for Sunday Services.

In April 1947 Peter was elected a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths; he paid 10 shillings for his membership and was awarded a Certificate which still proudly hangs on a wall at his home. He always attended their Annual Dinner held in London which in years gone by was totally male dominated. Peter was one of the longest serving members of the College Youths and in recognition of 60 years’ membership, on Saturday, 3rd February 2007 twelve members of the College Youths travelled from various parts of the country, including London, Bristol, Wotton-under-Edge, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham, to ring a peal of Stedman Cinques at St Mary’s Parish Church, Cheltenham. Afterwards they entertained Peter for lunch, which he enjoyed immensely.

Originally there were 6 bells in situ at Bishops Cleeve until Peter became the main instigator and mainstay of fund raising for an 8 bell tower. Two new bells were inaugurated in 1951 – now the treble and second bell. They complement the original six so well that St Michael’s bells are often described as “majestic” throughout the bell ringing fraternity.

Due to dwindling numbers no ringing took place at Bishops Cleeve for several years, until the Revd John Mead took over the ministry in 1982. Father John, as he was affectionately known, loved to hear the bells and as a result approached Peter just before Christmas 1982 and asked him to become Tower Captain. Peter agreed and promised the bells would be ringing again by Easter. He contacted past ringers and enrolled 3 or 4 new recruits which gave him a platform to work from. Our bells have been ringing out across the village every week since Easter 1983.

Tragically in April 2000 Peter broke his upper arm and dislocated his shoulder badly following a fall in church prior to ringing practice, and after his recovery he found ringing extremely difficult and painful. He decided to relinquish his duties as Tower Captain in July 2004. Peter’s lifelong love of bell ringing never ended and he would often visit on practice nights giving helpful advice to learners. He always proclaimed that you couldn’t call yourself a bell ringer until you successfully mastered Stedman.

Peter and Ruby were married at St Michael’s Church, Bishops Cleeve on 3rd June 1950 by Revd K. C. Edmunds; the bells of course were rung out in celebration of their special day. They were subsequently blessed with two children and became very proud grandparents and great-grandparents. A quarter peal of “Diamond Delight”, conducted by Mark Davies of Cheltenham Parish, was rung at Bishops Cleeve on Saturday, 5th June 2010 to celebrate Peter and Ruby’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

After a long illness, bravely fought, Peter passed away at Tewkesbury Hospital on Friday, 15th July. At his request, his favourite method, Stedman Triples, was rung at his funeral service at Bishops Cleeve on Tuesday, 26th July 2011.

On behalf of campanologists far and wide, thank you Peter for your unfaltering, devoted and dedicated commitment to the Tower over the past 65 years.

ANGELA HILL, Tower Secretary
St Michael’s & All Angels Church
Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire

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