How one man has rung bells at Norfolk’s churches for 70 years

Peter Woodcock, 84, who has been bell ringing for 70 years, and Jayden Stebbings, 10, ringing at All

Peter Woodcock, 84, who has been bell ringing for 70 years, and Jayden Stebbings, 10, ringing at All Saints Church at Shipdham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

He has dedicated 70 years of his life to ringing bells across hundreds of Britain's churches.

And now Peter Woodcock has been honoured for his decades of service with a special bell-ringing marathon.

The 84-year-old got the bug as a Sunday school member when he was invited into the tower at All Saints' Church, Shipdham, near Dereham, to see the bells, and was taught how to handle a rope safely.

Over the decades, he has rung at about 2,000 churches across Britain, interrupted only by his three years of National Service with the RAF in Northern Ireland when he couldn't find anywhere to ring.

He now lives in Dereham, but he has always retained a soft spot for the six bells in his former home village.

He has been tower captain for many years and has taught 50 men, women and children to ring.

A quarter-peal was rung in his honour at All Saints' on Easter Monday and he said: 'Ringing has always been a part of my life, and it's been nice to be recognised and welcomed whenever I've gone to other towers in Norfolk.

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'Also, ringing is a typically English art that's still practised in the village every week – not everywhere can say that, sadly, but we can.'

He dedicated the quarter-peal to his wife Mary, who celebrated her 87th birthday in the same week.

Mr Woodcock, a retired factory worker and bread delivery roundsman, was helped at the special ring by Dereham Junior Academy pupil Jayden Stebbings, aged 10, who has been ringing for just four years.

The youngster took the treble bell in his first quarter-peal attempt. The 1260 changes of Plain Bob Doubles took about 45 minutes of continuous ringing to complete.

The schoolboy was just six when he first heard the bells at St Nicholas' Church in Dereham and, together with his father, Chris Stebbings, practises at Dereham, Shipdham and Swanton Morley churches. Mr Stebbings is now Dereham's tower captain.

His son said: 'I just love the way they sound.'

Joining them in the special ring were Rosie Parsons, Phil Dentten and Aaron Hall, who conducted.