9th July 1926 – 1st October 2011

Frances Hibbert of Chapel-en-le-Frith died on 1st October 2011, after suffering a serious stroke earlier in the year.

Frances was born in 1926 shortly after her parents returned from Canada where they had met and married. Her father, Peter Laflin, was a keen and able tower and handbell ringer who had learnt to ring at Debenham in Suffolk. One of her earliest memories was of early bed on Thursday nights when the handbell band met at their house at 23 Greek Street, Stockport for peal attempts, many called by Allen Bailey (Uncle Bailey to the family), another Suffolk ringer from Leiston.

Despite a childhood marked by the unemployment of the 1930s and the Second World War, with rationing and the constant threat of air raids, her memories were of a happy home life with her brother and two sisters. In school holidays the children were sent alone by train to Suffolk to stay with her father’s relatives, with labels tied to their wrists and a card to post to say they had arrived safely. After her mother died in 1943, and as her brother and sisters married and moved out of the family home, Frances ran the home while working full time. Throughout her life she was always ready to set aside her needs for those of others.

Frances attended church at St George’s, Stockport where she received a thorough Christian education and also leant to ring. After the war she travelled widely to ring, with trips through Cheshire by bicycle and journeys wider afield, including an invitation with other lady ringers to ring for the rededication of the Five Sisters window at York Minster.

Frances’ first peal was of Bob Major at Newchurch, Lancashire in 1946, called by Ken Lewis and including Mary Elkins, later to marry Ken, both of whom remained lifelong friends. In 1948 she rang her first of several peals with Arthur Hibbert of Chapel-en-le-Frith, whom she would later marry. In her brief peal-ringing career she rang with many well-known ringers including Chris Woolley, Teddy Barnett, Brian Price, Pat Cannon, Gilbert Thurlow and Ron Dove. Her last and 19th peal, her and Arthur’s first peal of Stedman, was at Moorside, Oldham in 1952.

Frances and Arthur used to meet at Disley practice, half way between Stockport and Chapel by train. In January 1954 they married and she moved to Chapel. Elizabeth was born the following December, followed by William and Peter. Frances continued to ring at Chapel, and taught in the Sunday School, was a founder member of the Young Wives group, and began an involvement in church and village activities that lasted the rest of her life. As the children grew up she took a job as a lunchtime classroom assistant at the local primary school.

After Arthur retired they enjoyed travelling around the UK. This part of her life was brought to an untimely end by Arthur’s death in 1989 after 35 years of marriage. In the last 20 years of her life, Frances travelled widely, visiting relatives and ringing in Australia and the US, and visiting many parts of Europe. In 1997 she visited Toronto to ring on the new 12 at the Cathedral, and saw for the first time the church in Toronto in which her parents were married and the houses that her father built for the family in the 1920s.

Frances had a great gift for relating to children and was always eager to involve them in any events she organised. She was a sharp judge of character, but with the wisdom to keep her views to herself, and a great sense of humour. She was widely read and knowledgeable, and happy to debate with anyone on any subject. She was a good organiser and a hard worker, actively involved in church sales, exhibitions and similar events over many years, and a faithful visitor of the sick and needy. She was a churchwarden for eight years, only relinquishing this job at the start of 2011.

Her life in ringing was marked by life membership of the Chester Diocesan Guild and she was also a long-time member of the Ladies’ Guild and the Derby Diocesan Association. She was proud of the fact that she had never lived in a house without a copy of The Ringing World or a tower key. Her life of service was recognised when she received the Royal Maundy at Derby Cathedral on April 1st 2009 – though it was typical of her to suggest that, when she first opened the official invitation, she thought it must be an April fool.

She is buried, with Arthur, close to the tower and church she served for so long.

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers