The First Decade 1979 - 1989


The Society was founded on 27th June 1979 as a result of a letter in February 1979 published in the ‘Ringing World’. This evolved when 3 ringers, Sue Tompsett, Christine Ottaway and Janet Menhenick all studying with the Open University (OU) were chatting, and together wondered if there might be other students studying with the OU who were Bell Ringers, and who might be interested in creating an OU Change Ringing Society.

The letter resulted in a few responses and a band was formed to ring a Quarter Peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Milton Keynes, Bucks, S Thomas Ap, Simpson (the Tower closest to the OU campus) and then to hold the preliminary meeting. Pictures were taken by the O.U. following the quarter peal for publication in Sesame.


As time went on, further ringers were found all of whom were interested in joining an Open University Society. And so the first formal meeting was held in Oxford on 29 September 1979 and ringing was enjoyed at four towers in the area. At this meeting, 14 members attended and David Belcham was elected as our first Ringing Master, Mary Purvis as Secretary with Peter Rowe as Deputy Ringing Master. The annual subscription was set to £1. With the Society duly organised, a constitution was prepared for consideration by the Open University Students Association (OUSA).


1980 saw our first full programme of activities with meetings in Hampshire, and Northamptonshire and our first AGM was held in Warwickshire.


In 1981 a meeting was held in Cambridgeshire where our first Secretary resigned and Susan Tompsett was duly elected. In the same year, we spent a weekend in Dorset and our AGM was held in London (when we also visited the Science Museum to see the Carter Ringing Machine). We also scored the first peal for the Society at Ewell, Surrey, of Yorkshire Surprise Major.


In 1981, we became affiliated to OUSA.    


We published our first Newsletter, edited by Mary Purvis.


1983 saw the Society in action in Kent, Derbyshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire. We again had a change of Secretary with John Criddle responding to some gentle persuasion. We also scored our second Peal at Hughenden, Buckinghamshire when Stedman Triples was rung.


In 1984, we visited Worcester and Oxfordshire. At the AGM we saw a change of Ringing Master when David Belcham resigned and Chris Ridley was elected.

1985 was the year we went to Southampton where we all awoke to six inches of snow! Other meetings were held in 1985 in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire. We scored our third Peal at Wokingham, Plain Bob Major. At Easter, several members visited the Isle of Wight for a weekend, organised by Mary Purvis.

1986 saw return visits to London and Essex.


John Criddle was elected Ringing Master.

Meetings for 1987 were planned to the Shrewsbury area, plus a quarter-peal day in Kent. The AGM was to be held in the Wallingford area. At Wokingham, Berks, we scored our 5th Peal.


We were delighted in 1988 when Bob Coe presented the Society with a “Badge of Office” for exclusive use by the Ringing Master.

Meetings in 1988 included visits to Wokingham (a Hand-bell day), Coventry, the Open Day at the Open University in Milton Keynes, Hampshire and our AGM was held in Cheltenham.


To mark our first 10 years in 1989, we held an Anniversary Dinner at the Open University with our guest, Dr. John Horlock, Vice Chancellor of the University.


The AGM for 1989 was held in the Essex / Suffolk area.

The Second Decade – 1990 to 2000

In 1990, a group of us went up to Lincolnshire, to the Boston Stump. We then held a Quarter Peal day in Derbyshire and the AGM was held in Bath.

We held another successful Hand-Bell day in Essex, and in March, visited Coventry Cathedral and Rugby. In June, we had a Quarter Peal day in Hertfordshire and in November, our AGM was held in Stratford. 1992 brought us to London, an Open Day at Walton Hall, a Quarter Peal day in Suffolk and our AGM in Brighton. In 1994, we held our 15th anniversary with a dinner, at which the University Vice Chancellor, Sir John and Lady Daniel kindly attended as our guests.


Later, in 1994, we rang a quarter-peal to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the University.


With the death of Lord Harold Wilson (founder of the Open University) in 1995, we rang a quarter-peal in his memory. In 1999, we had a long week-end tour of the Channel Islands.

Also in 1999, twenty years after our foundation, we again welcomed the Vice Chancellor, Sir John and Lady Daniel in 1999 for an Anniversary Dinner at Walton Hall. In the same year, we rang another peal to mark the occasion.

The Third Decade 2000 - 2010

2001 saw a number of members travelling to the Isle of Wight for a long weekend jaunt. Two years later, in 2003, members visited the Lake District and the Isle of Man. Our 25th Anniversary Dinner was held in 2004 when we enjoyed dinner at the Moat House near Reading, with the Editor of the Ringing World as our guest.

Brownsea Island was our main venue in 2005 and in 2008 we saw the publication of our 100th Newsletter and a new Web Site:       

In June of 2008, 15 of us had an enjoyable weekend visit to North Devon and enjoyed ringing at several towers around the Appledore area. Perhaps the real highlight was a boat trip to Lundy Island where we rang 3 quarter peals at St. Helens church. As we travelled home, we stopped off to ring another quarter on the Saxilby Simulator at Oakhampton.

In September 2008, we had an OpUSCR stand at the Ringing World Road Show held at Stoneleigh Park. Our 2008 AGM was held North of Oxford where we were able to welcome a senior member of OUSA to the meeting. 


On Saturday 20th June 2009, 6 members rang our 8th Peal at SANDON. This very date, 30 years ago to the day, the Open University Society of Change Ringers was created. To celebrate the years, a special ringing day was planned, culminating in the evening with a formal dinner with our guests, Steve and Sue Coleman. About 18 members attended the splendid Dinner at the Swan Revived Hotel in Newport Pagnall, and there listened to a very amusing speech by our guest speaker, after he had been introduced by our Master, Olav Bradstock. In attendance too with our current Master were four past Masters – David Belcham, Mary Coe (nee Purvis), Sue Tompsett and Sheila Matthews.

A toast was proposed by Olav for the continued success of the Society. As the evening drew to an end, one of our new embossed Glass Bells was presented to Steve and Sue Coleman.

The Fourth Decade 2010 - 2020


In 2010, we enjoyed a walking visit through Ipswich where we strolled to ring at 6 towers. Later in the year, we found ourselves in North Wales for a 2-day ringing event in 10 towers. 2011 brought us to Somerset – where on one day we rang 6 quarters.

2013 was a North and South year. In the North, we succeeded in ringing 9 of the 12 Quarter Peal attempts, while down South, Eight Quarter Peals were rung during the September weekend visit to Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The Sunday was spent on Brownsea Island (since we had the use of the bells for the entire day, 3 of the weekend quarters were successfully rung there).

On 27th June 2014, we celebrated our 35th year by ringing a Quarter Peal at the very same tower that we rang our First Quarter near to the OU (SIMPSON Bucks, St Thomas Ap) back in June 1979. Three of the ringers on this occasion were founder members: Sue Tompsett, David Belcham and Mary Coe. And also in our 35th years, 35 members enjoyed a memorable 4-day visit to 19 towers in the Republic of Ireland. This superb occasion was organised by Denise Hughes.

In 2016, at two close towers in London, two Peals were rung simultaneously – one with all male members and the other with all female members of our Society. In June of this same year, and to complete the rings in the continent of Ireland, Denise organised a second trip – this time to towers in Northern Ireland. This was a 5-day visit when 26 enjoyed ringing at 15 towers.


In June 2018 several of us ventured over to ring at St. Mary’s, Hugh Town  on the Isles of Scilly.


16th September 2017 saw the first handbell Quarter Peal rung for the Society - rung at the Cherington Arms, Cherington.

On the very hot day of Saturday 29th June 2019, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary in the Bedfordshire area. During the day, many of us rang at 6 towers, with a Quarter Peal at the final tower. In the evening, 34 of us met for a formal Dinner at the grand Chicheley Hall with our Guest Speaker, Alan Regin. Also present was our 3 founder members. On the Sunday after, a 40th Anniversary Peal was rung at Cranfield.

The Fifth Decade 2020 - 2029


Sadly, all activities from March 2020 were been suspended due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. It left us all hoping for a resumption as soon as possible.



PJR December 2020