14th February 2003
On Saturday, 14 February 1903 a band met at St John’s, Ranmoor, Sheffield to attempt a peal in a new Surprise Major method, devised by Arthur Craven of Chesterfield. On the successful completion of the peal the method was named Yorkshire. They would not have realised at the time that the method they had just rung would go on to become one of today’s most popular methods.
This peal received surprisingly little recognition in 1903. It was only the third peal of Surprise Major to be rung for the Yorkshire Association following Superlative on 19 November 1892 at Sheffield Parish Church and Cambridge at Drighlington on 4 March 1899. The peal is recorded in the Association report for 1903 but no special mention is made of it despite the previous year’s report stating, “we wish that the activity of our Minor brethren in Surprise peals were equalled in our Major bands.”
Arthur Craven had devised the method some years before - the figures appeared in The Bell News in 1899. It had been practised at meetings of the Sheffield and District Society from January 1901 and several attempts for a peal were made before February 1903. The band that rang the peal were drawn from a wide area, in fact only one (Sam Thomas) was a Sheffield ringer, with six of the band coming from Derbyshire towers. Why more Sheffield ringers were not involved is a mystery since Sheffield was a major centre of ringing with the four towers boasting 52 members of the Yorkshire Association, only 7 of whom had never rung a peal and with most having rung at least 10.
Sam Thomas rang more often with the Derbyshire men, he rang two peals of Kent TB Royal at Chesterfield during 1903, than he did with the ringers at the other Sheffield towers although it is known that he corresponded regularly with Charles Henry Hattersley at the Parish Church, often calling his compositions. It seems that at the time the ringers at each of the Sheffield towers kept themselves to themselves, preferring to ring peals with their own ringers, or ringers from towers outside of Sheffield rather than with other Sheffield ringers.
The band who rang this first peal, with the exception of Thomas Bettison, travelled to New Mills, Derbyshire on Monday 13 April and scored another peal of Yorkshire there, using a different Arthur Craven composition – his now more famous 3 part. This was rung again on 24 October 1903 at Bolsover so by the end of 1903 the Association had more than doubled its total of peals of Surprise Major.
To mark the centenary of this first peal a repeat performance was arranged at Ranmoor, although now on different bells as the original 15cwt eight were recast into the current ring of ten by Gillett and Johnston in 1934. The peal was again conducted by a Ranmoor ringer, but this time included five other Sheffield ringers (including two others from Ranmoor).
The band that rang the peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at St John, Ranmoor, Sheffield on 14 February 2003, to mark the 100th anniversary of the first peal in the method, at the same tower.
Left to Right:
Chris Bennett, Simon Smith, Malcolm Turner, Neil Donovan,
Alison Bennett, Robin Story, Simon Reading, Alan Reading.
Simon J.T. Smith
End of Article
This article was published in Sprials (Sheffield District newsletter) May 2003