December 3rd 2023 marked an important anniversary in the history of the Chester Diocesan Guild.
Largely overlooked by previous historical accounts of the Guild, the Grappenhall band in the 1890s was in the vanguard of ringing in the area at the time. Already, on the 3rd August 1895, the band had rung the first peal in 7 methods for the Guild, the peal board for which hangs in the church.
Four months later, on 7th December 1895, they rang the first peal of Treble Bob for the Guild, again in 7 methods. Following this milestone, the band continued to ring peals in 7 Treble Bob methods, often following 720s in the individual methods in the lead up to the peals. Many of these peals were at Grappenhall, but the band also notched the first peals at Stretton (30th May 1896), Frodsham (14th November 1896), Davenham (26th December 1896), and Eccleston (St Helens), all also in 7 Treble Bob methods.
The pinnacle of this was the peal rung on 26th March 1898 which consisted of 7,200 changes in 10 methods, which at the time was the longest length peal rung for the Guild.
Not being content with these achievements, the band started to ring Surprise methods, the first 720 of Cambridge being scored on 9th March 1897. The band gradually built up its repertoire of Surprise methods over the next months, interspersed still with the peals of Treble Bob.
This culminated on 3rd December 1898 with the first peal of Surprise rung for the Chester Guild, and following the tradition of the peals of Treble Bob, was also in 7 methods. The peal board for this achievement hangs today in Grappenhall church, this and the board for the 1895 Treble Bob peal having been professionally restored.
For the 125th anniversary of this peal, members of the current Grappenhall Sunday service band met on 3rd December and rang a quarter peal in 7 Surprise Minor methods, as a tribute to those ringers at Grappenhall in the 1890s who achieved this, for those days, remarkable feat.
Nick Thomson (Grappenhall)