11th July 1917 – 28th June 2011

Clayton Tom Drew, better known as Tom, passed away peacefully on 28th June 2011 at the age of 93 less than two weeks before his 94th birthday. Tom was a dedicated member of the Romsey Abbey Bell Ringers for 74 years.

He was born on 11th July 1917 in Romsey. After leaving school Tom worked as an apprentice cabinet maker from the age of 14. Woodwork was to become one of Tom’s great loves. Throughout his career Tom worked on flying boats, caravans and new housing sites. He concluded his working life at Reema, North Baddesley as Carpenter Foreman.

Tom’s woodworking skills proved very useful in the tower of Romsey Abbey. One of his first jobs was to fit a specially cast iron bracket to secure the top of the frame between the 1st and 2nd bells to prevent excessive movement. He also helped install soundproofing for the ringing chamber and fashioned wooden benches.  Tom installed rope guides which Whitechapel Bell Foundry advised after the 1976 rehanging of the bells.

Tom made the plate glass wooden table; the centre piece in the Abbey ringing chamber. This table was made from an old treble wheel. It was so large it had to be hauled up through the trap door some 70 feet from the ground!

Another of Tom’s wood working achievements was the dummy bell. This was made from an old wheel to his own design. This ‘bell’ is still in use today and is a great teaching aid for our learners.

Tom completed many small maintenance jobs in and around the tower.  He enjoyed welcoming visitors to the ringing chamber and revered the tower’s role in the abbey. This respect extended to an insistence that he sweep the stairs in preparation for the Mayor’s visit every New Year’s Eve!

Tom was a keen photographer and a founder member of the local photographic society. He framed and sold his beautiful photographs of the bells and the abbey environment and donated the proceeds to the bell fund. He also loved to watch Formula One motor racing and he visited Silverstone to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Tom met his future wife, Doris, in Romsey. She had been evacuated during the war and lived near-by. They married at Romsey Abbey on 27th March 1943. They had two daughters, Brenda and Janet.

Tom’s ringing career was concentrated at Romsey Abbey where he was a devoted member for over 70 years. He started ringing in 1935, regularly ringing for services, practice nights, weddings and other special occasions. He became an honorary life member of the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers. Tom only ever rang one peal. He rang the tenor to a peal of Grandsire Triples in 1974; this being the first peal by a Sunday service band since 1905.

Above all, Tom was a Sunday Morning Service ringer. This he accomplished his entire ringing life. Latterly, he always arrived early to give himself time to climb the 115 steps to the ringing chamber and recover breath before the rest of us arrived! This was a credit to his determination to keep ringing on a Sunday morning for as long as he was able.

Tom reluctantly retired from ringing in 2009. The stairs are not easy, even for the fittest! His presence has been missed by the band ever since. However, Tom continued emulating “Formula One” in his special mobility scooter around Romsey, cheerfully greeting ringers and all who knew him.

Romsey Abbey, Hampshire

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