The Old Ringer’s story (Royal Wedding Celebrations Part 2)

The Old Ringer’s story (Royal Wedding Celebrations Part 2)

Stephen Tolliday and his sons were great Sudbury chimers. Arthur chimed first at St. Gregory’s and then for over 40 years at All Saints. Felix, rang in many of the local churches and taught Charley Sillitoe to ring. All three were involved in the incident of the wedding celebration of the Prince of Wales.

Felix Tolliday,
(Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive.)

In 1863, the Rector, Rev. J. W. H. Molyneux, as it was Lent, refused to allow any ringing, even for the wedding of the Prince of Wales, (the future Edward VII). The ringers got into the tower surreptitiously overnight and the bells were rung merrily all day, to the great chagrin of the Rector.

Rev. J. W. H. Molyneux Image from the ‘Friends’ of St. Peter’s’ archive

In November 1916, after the death of his brother Arthur, Felix recounted the story to a reporter at the ‘Suffolk and Essex Free Press’: “That’s all forgotten now,” said the old Ringer, “but as you asked me, I must tell you we had the Mayor, the local authority, the police and the inhabitants on our side. The people couldn’t tolerate the idea of no bell ringing for the king’s wedding, Sudbury had always been loyal and enthusiastic in its celebrations. How did we get into the tower? I don’t know whether it is really known to this day. Ladders were put up at midnight, and we got up onto the leads and, having drawn up our provisions, barricaded ourselves in, and the ladders were removed without molestation by the police. We used to muster 18 ringers in Sudbury then. Ah. They’re nearly all gone – gone are Walter Griggs, Jim Morley, J. Bonney, senior, J. Bonney junior, Walter and Thomas Bonney, Jim Strutt and my father Stephen Tolliday. They were the old band. The public were delighted when they heard the bells ringing so merrily. All day we were at it, and when night came, we slipped out, and very glad we were to get out. There had been a threat to break the door down if we did not desist, but the barricade prevented that.”

The turret door at St. Peter’s, Sudbury