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Marshall Shield

The Marshall Shield was set up by a previous Branch Chairman, Richard Marshall, to encourage more towers to join in the annual Branch striking competition. Specifically, it was awarded to the team that rang call changes with the best striking. The Shield has been awarded to the following towers over the years:

1992 Bucklebury
1993 Newbury
1994 Chieveley
1995 Thatcham
1996-8 Not awarded or not known
1999 Beenham
2000 East Garston
2001 Lambourn
2002 East Garston
2003-4 Not awarded or not known
2005 Beenham
2006 Not awarded or not known
2007 Hungerford
2008 Not awarded or not known
2009 Lambourn
2010 Not awarded or not known
2011 Hungerford
2012 Speen
2013 Great Shefford
2014 Not awarded or not known
2015 Hampstead Norreys and Yattendon
2016 Hungerford
2017 Bucklebury
2018 Lambourn
2019 Beenham and Yattendon
2020 Shield not awarded as the Covid-19 pandemic stopped most ringing activities
2021 Hampstead Norreys
2023 East Garston

In 2018 the Branch Officers took the view that it had served its purpose well, but perhaps some fresh approach could be adopted. It was proposed that the Shield could be awarded in recognition of outstanding effort by a tower not so much for striking excellence, but in some other way that affects the day-to-day running at a tower. Examples that came to mind were bell restoration projects, significant efforts at recruitment of new ringers, activity at a tower or group of towers to encourage young ringers, and action by one tower to help train new ringers at another.

The Shield is still awarded at the Branch Striking Competition/Branch Practice held at the July meet each year. Nominations for the Shield should be sent to Richard Marshall and/or the current chairman, in good time for the July practice.

I would like to nominate Amanda Marchant and the Lambourn Branch Tower for the Marshall Shield.
The team led by Amanda have raised approximately £14000 in less than a year (this includes grants) to enable them to refurbish the ringing chamber and carry out essential maintenance on the bells. Work on the ringing chamber has been started and work on the bells will start I believe early next year.
Amanda is a very enthusiastic ringer and promotes the band whenever & where ever she can. She keeps the tower clean, enhances the walls with poster displays & generally makes the tower welcoming.
The band is a very friendly one and the members never stop trying. They always muster enough people to ring for Sunday service and special occasions.
Visitors are always made welcome and it has been known for visiting bands to be supplied with tea & cake.
I can’t really praise them enough, they are a lovely band and what they lack in skill (all being comparatively new to ringing) they make up with enthusiasm and determination.

A few years ago, Beenham and Yattendon towers decided to join together for practices; attendance at both towers had seen a dip, and Yattendon, sharing ringers with the currently unringable Hampstead Norreys, were open to raising their standard of ringing.
At the beginning of 2018, an article in the respective village newsletters about Ringing for Peace resulted in a number of new ringers coming forward, and there are now 6 new ringers between the two towers.
Priority has been given to teaching these new recruits, and the experienced ringers helped and encouraged them. Practices are social, friendly and fun. All the novices achieved their aim of ringing to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the First World War, and are now regularly ringing for services and weddings.
In 2019 quarter peal week, 2 of the newer ringers rang their first quarter peals, and in April there was a joint tower outing to 5 Downland towers. The most heard response was “That was great fun, can we do that again?” !
It is thanks to our new ringers for their staying power and sense of humour that they have contributed to the revitalisation of these towers, which will also extend to Hampstead Norreys once its bell restoration is complete. But the greatest contribution has been from Marcus Allum, who has with patience and skill handled evenings of up to 9 learners at a time. Marcus has through the years
taught many people to ring, but this has been his greatest challenge; new and experienced ringers thank him for his constant help and encouragement.

I would like to nominate John and Sheila Craig from Hampstead Norreys for the Richard Marshall shield. These are my reasons:
As you are probably aware the Hampstead bells became unringable some 5 years ago and sadly what was left of the band had little knowledge or enthusiasm to enter into a full re-hanging programme. The PCC asked the Craigs (who have previously run a number of successful fundraising and restoration project for the village) if they would be willing to undertake a feasibility study to see if this was something they could do. Neither of them knew anything about bells other than Sheila’s hand bell ringing. They have never attempted to ring a bell nor are likely to! Sheila’s experience and skill as a fundraiser is extraordinary. They very quickly put a fundraising project together and in a very short time raised the £70k required; this was possibly the fastest that a project to re-hang a set of bells has been completed. This included 100% of the amount they had requested from the Heritage Lottery – apparently a rare event.
John has project-managed from start to finish. He led the faculty application and needless to say spent many, many hours in discussions with the Oxford DOC. This was a very difficult and stressful time, but eventually he managed to obtain the vital piece of paper and even succeeded in getting permission to tune 5 of the bells.
Not that this was to be the end of his problems as Covid struck meaning that the planned village involvement had to come to an end before the project even started. Taylor’s intimated that if we did some preparatory work during Lockdown, they would be able to move Hampstead to the front of the queue. John realised this was an opportunity, and with Tessa’s assistance, I managed to get the bells into a fit state for Taylor’s to be able to remove them as soon as they were able to resume work.
No sooner had the bells been removed from the tower than active Death-watch Beetle was discovered meaning that the frame was very quickly turning to dust. This meant that John had to quickly find experts who could treat the frame and liaise with Taylors to repair a sadly decaying frame before the bells returned.
John and Sheila also undertook the opening of the church so that the bells could be viewed before and after the bells’ trip to Loughborough. All this was done efficiently and Covid-safe.
In addition, during the project John had to undergo a knee replacement operation, meaning that lots of the organising took place remotely.
Without doubt, without the Craigs’ involvement it wouldn’t be possible for the Hampstead bells to ring out again this Christmas and I suspect that it would have been many more years before they could be rung – if ever“.

“I would like to nominate Maureen Velvick of East Garston Tower for the Marshall Shield.
Maureen led a phenomenal fundraising campaign to raise around £50k in two years in order to have the East Garston bells restored. Her passion, enthusiasm and drive captured the village community and wider ringing circles to organise and/or support a range of fundraising events including a lottery, bric a brac sales, Christmas fayres, sponsored walk, paella lunches, plant sales, metal detecting, sales of covid face masks, and much more. 
Maureen organised volunteers from within the branch and local community to help with manual labour and transportation of the bells in order to save thousands of pounds on the overall cost of the project. The tower was grateful to receive both £5k match funding from the Greenham Trust and a £6.4k grant from the ODG. 
Maureen’s vision was for the ‘challenging’ bells of East Garston to be made easier to ring so that we could invite local ringers to join us and recruit new ones to the band. Maureen’s enthusiasm remains as strong as ever, as she helps teach new ringers and supports and promotes ‘Lambourn Valley’ ringing in general. 
I am sure Maureen would want to thank everyone that contributed in any way at all to making this project a success, and the Lambourn ringers in particular for their help, support and guidance during the project. East Garston tower welcomes all ringers to come and ring the beautifully restored bells”