Charles Baron

The very little we know about Charles Baron comes from the following local newspaper article (picture of cutting):

Saffron Walden, January 2, 1754

To inform all real Lovers and Professors of the Art of Ringing, That the Society of young Ringers of this Town, on Tuesday the 25th of Decem­ber last, being Christmas-Day, did ring the true Peal of Grandsire Triples, composed of 148 Bobs, with two Singles, which they effected in three Hours and twenty Minutes; and on Tuesday following, being New-Year's ­Day, they compleated the same in eight Minutes less than before (being the only Times the same has been rung there since there has been eight Bells), to the no small Mortification of their Antagonists (some of the Old Society), who, instead of Instruction, gave them all the Obstruction in their power. The Ringers which rung the same were Frederick Sell, Charles Baron, who called the Bobs, Richard Whitehand, John Banks, William Barrett, jun., Richard Bush, jun., John Clark, and John Salmon.

He must have been a figure of importance in the Exercise. His conducting of the two peals of, what is assumed to have been Holt's Original composition of Grandsire Triples (composed in one part and made up of 150 calls - it is very difficult to learn), as part of the local band in 1753 and 1754 is a towering achievement and was at one time thought to have been the first by a ringing conductor (as opposed to conducting from a script). The subject has been discussed at length and over the years in the Ringing World. Current thinking is that Holt's Original was called twice, from the treble, by a participating ringer (William Dixon) in Norwich a year earlier in 1752 and that the peals at Saffron Walden on Christmas Day 1753 and New Year's Day 1754 were the first of Holt's Original conducted from an inside bell without a script. The discovery of the records of the Saffron Walden and Norwich peals as described and discussed in the Ringing World are detailed below.

Ringing World (January 2, 1914):

Dear Sir, —Some very old cuttings from newspapers have come into the possession of a gentleman in Saffron Walden. Amongst them is a record of the ringing of two peals of Grandsire Triples with 148 bobs and two singles. I presume that the peals rung were Holt's one-part. As Holt conducted the peal from manuscript on July 7th, 1751, and those were conducted from memory in 1753 and 1754, I think they must be nearly if not quite the first peals rung under those conditions. No doubt they had to be rung true, as the record shows that great rivalry existed between two societies of ringers in the town at that time. I give a copy of the cutting below. Perhaps some of the "Great ones in Grandsire" can give more particulars.- Yours faithfully, FREDK. PITSTOW.

And further in the same edition:

The discovery made through an old newspaper that a peal of Grandsire Triples with 148 bobs and two singles was called at Saffron Walden, Essex, in the years 1753 and 1754 (on Christmas Day and the following New Year's Day to be exact) raises an interesting point. The composition undoubtedly must have been Holt's Original, as no other peal with only two singles had then been composed, and this was first rung, and conducted, by John Holt from manuscript at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on July 7th, 1751. So far as we are aware these two peals at Saffron Walden are the first in which the conductor of this celebrated composition rang in the peal, and if this is a fact, exceptional interest attaches to the performances. We hope that those who are authorities upon the subject may be able, as Mr. Fred Pitstow suggests, to give us further light on the subject.

From Ringing World (October 21, 1921):

On October 23rd, 1791, which was Sunday, Holt's Original was conducted for the first time in London by a ringer taking part in the peal. This was at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, and for more than a century it was believed to be the very first occasion upon which the conductor had, rung one of the bells and called this peal. On Oct. 23rd, 1884, the College Youths celebrated the anniversary by ringing the composition non-conducted at the same church.

There is reason now, however, to suppose that the composition was conducted, by one of the ringers in a peal at Saffron Walden, on Christmas Day, 1753, and again on New Year’s Day, 1754, for an ancient newspaper cutting was unearthed a few years ago recording the peals and the ringers names, and stating that the peal was composed of 148 Bobs with two singles. As no other composition of the kind was known to exist at that date it seems evident that these peals must have been the Original, and that the performances were unknown to the London ringers 38 years later.

  From Ringing World (December 30, 1921):

Dear Sir,—I send you copies of extracts from East Anglian newspapers, from which it will be seen that it is not known for certain who did really ring and call Holt's Original first:-

Holt's Original was first rung at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, on Sunday, July 7th, 1751, conducted from manuscript by John Holt, as most of your readers know. It was rung for the second time at Stonham Aspal as the following record, copied from the 'Ipswich Journal,' shows: -

‘On Friday, January 31st, 1752, was rung at Stonham Aspal in the county of Suffolk by their own society of ringers a five thousand and forty Grandsire Triples, it being the second time ever rung with two Doubles only. This true peal has been very lately found out by Mr. John Holt, of London, and the bobs were called by Mr. William Walker. It was compleated in 3 hours and 10 minutes by the eight following persons: Henry Gray I , Daniel Hearsham 2, James Gardiner 3, Richard Wade 4, William Banyard 5, John Sharp 6, Richard Moyse 7, John Thurlow 8.’

N.B.-It is thought impracticable for a man to ring one of the bells and call the bobs at the same time the peal being so intricate.’

The composition was rung for the third and fourth times at Norwich, as will be seen from the following extracts from the ‘Norwich Mercury' :- ,

‘St. Michael's, Coslany.-On Saturday, August 22nd, 1752, was rung at St. Michael's, Coslany, a complete 5,040 of Mr. Holt’s Tripples in 3 hours, without changes alike or a bell out of course, it being the first time ever performed by eight men only. So intricate, it was thought no man could ring a bell and call the bobs. It has been rung in London and at Stonham Aspal with prompts. But this was rung by these men without a prompt.'

No names are given in the' Norwich Mercury,' but from the particulars given it appears certain that the peal 'Holt's Original.'

The same peal was again rung two months later, the record in the ‘Norwich Mercury’ being as follows: - .

‘On Sunday, Oct. 22nd, 1752, was rung at St. Giles', in ye city of, Norwich, 5,040 Grandsire Tripples with only two Doubles and no alteration. This true peal has been very lately found out by Mr. John Holt, of London. The bobs were called by William Dixon. The peal being so intricate, the bell (London) ringers thought it impracticable for a man to ring one of the bells, and call the bobs at the same time. The peal was compleatly rung in 3 hours and 6 minutes by the following persons: William Dixon 1, John Gardiner 2, Thomas Hart 3, Charles  Jarvis 4, Samuel Shelver 5, Robert Dyke 6, Charles Harth 7, Frederick Whitfield 8.'

This record clearly shows what peal was rung, and these records prove that it is not known who did really first ring and call the peal at the same time. The ‘Original ' was rung for the fifth and sixth time at Saffron Walden on the dates mentioned, Christmas, 1753, and New Year's Day, 1754.                                                                   T. E. SLATER. Hunts Hill, Glemsford.

From Ringing World (February 1, 1929):

Dear Sir, —In your issue of the 11th inst. you give particulars [as detailed earlier in 1921 above], supplied by Mr. G. H. Cross, of records of Holt's Original having been conducted on two occasions in 1752 at Norwich by a ringer taking part in the peal, as taken from the ' Norwich Mercury ' by Mr. Philip Sadler and you state that Mr. Cross remarks that the claim that this was the first achieved at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, in 1791, by the Ancient Society of College Youths, should be corrected in the recently published history of that society. It might be well, therefore, for me to give the source from which the record claimed by the College Youths was taken by the committee appointed to revise and draw up the new Rule Book.

In Snowdon's 'Grandsire' on page 138 appears the following: 'Holt, as has already been related, called his one-part peal from a manuscript copy, and did not take any other part in the performance. We may be sure that many a conductor would feel ambitious to call the peal without such assistance, but it was not until forty years after it’s first performance that this object was attained. On Sunday, October 23rd, 1791, the College Youths rang this peal at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, when it was conducted by James Bartlett, who rang the treble, and thus gained the honour of being the first man to conduct the peal and take part in the ringing.'

One would hardly have supposed that a ringer of the parts of Mr. George Cross had not perused the pages of this interesting work of outstanding merit in the art of change ringing, and that he was apparently unaware of Snowdon's remarks on this subject, seems strange, to say the least of it. Passing over this point, however, if the statement now claimed of there being two previous performances of this peal at Norwich and another at Saffron Walden is correct, how can it be explained that Snowdon, in his patient and painstaking research work, should not have come across these records, or should have ignored them altogether, if he did? Snowdon must have been brought into very intimate contact with Norwich when collecting data for his various books, and the question arises, was there insufficient proof to satisfy him that the peals referred to were the famous Original?

With reference to Mr. Cross' recent letter in your issue of January 18th, inquiring whether the peal of Bob Triples rung at St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, in 1715, was not the first peal of 5,000 changes ever rung, he will find this point very fully dealt with in Snowdon's ‘Grandsire' on pages 117 and 118, and I would suggest his possessing himself of a copy of this book. -Yours faithfully, G. N. PRICE.

From Ringing World (February 8, 1929 – title page):


History is being called into question by letters which have recently appeared in our columns on the subject of early peals and the first performances of Holt's Original. First of all a correspondent questioned the College Youths' record that a peal, rung in 1688-9, was composed and conducted by Benjamin Annable, when, according to Snowdon, in 'Grandsire', quoting from ‘The Clavis,' Annable died in 1755 between sixty and seventy years of age. Mr. E. A. Young's reply to this was the suggestion that Annable was older than he was thought to be by those who recorded his age in ‘The Clavis.' Since this there has come another challenge to the records of the Ancient Society, viz., that the claim that its members rang Holt's Original on the first occasion on which it was called by a ringer taking part in the peal can no longer be upheld, other performances of this peal (between the years 1752 and 1754), with the conductor ringing one of the bells, having now come to light. In defence of the College Youths' claim, Mr. G.N. Price puts forward Snowdon's history of the Grandsire method, in which the peal of 1791 was treated as first, and Mr. Price asks, if the other claims to earlier peals are correct, how can it be explained that Snowdon in his patient and painstaking research work should not have come across these records, or should have ignored them if he did? 'Snowdon,' says Mr. Price, 'must have been brought into very intimate contact with Norwich when collecting data for his various books, and the question arises, was there sufficient proof to satisfy him that the peals referred to were the famous Original?'

On the question of Annable's age, it is doubtful if anyone can now provide definite evidence unless it can be supplied from some of the ancient parish registers. The question of the 'Original' however, seems to be fairly plain. In the case of one at least of the Norwich peals the full details were given in the 'Norwich Mercury' of the time (1752), including the names of the ringers and the added intimation that ‘the peal being so intricate the London Bell Ringers thought it impracticable for a man to ring one of the bells and call the bobs at the same time.' The particulars' of the two peals, in 1753 and 1754, at Saffron Walden, were discovered about 15 years ago among some old newspaper cuttings from publications of the period, and in these, also, the names of the ringers are given. In view of these facts, therefore, there seems little doubt that the College Youths' peal of 1791 was not the first time the' Original' was performed under the same conditions.

Jasper Snowdon was, as we all know, a most painstaking man, but even he could not have searched all the newspaper files throughout the country, and it is quite easy to believe that the records of the Norwich and Saffron Walden peals never came under his notice. Had they done so it is only reasonable to assume that he would at least have mentioned them, even if he had had some doubt as to, their authenticity, because he analysed at great length many other of the early performances. Even the questioned 1689 peal he accepts, with limitations, in the phrase ' it seems not improbable that such a performance may have taken place at this date.' Had Snowdon known of the Norwich and Saffron Walden peals, he surely then would have said something about them and not merely have left the subject with the statement 'we may be sure that many a conductor' would feel ambitious to call the peal without such assistance (manuscript), but it was 'not until forty years after its first performance (1791) that this 'object was attained.'

From Ringing World (February 15, 1929):


Dear Sir,—As I was the one who showed to 'The Ringing World' who first called Holt's Original as well as ringing it, may I be allowed to answer Mr. Price's question? I claim that the ‘Original’ was first rung at Norwich by eight men only, 'The Norwich Mercury' gives the record of the peal and also describes the composition as 'having been rung in London and Stonham Aspal, but was rang by these men without a prompt.’ The record also states ‘that it was thought so intricate that no man could ring a bell and call the bobs.' It was again rung in Norwich a short time after. Mr. Price asks ‘if the statement now claimed of there being two previous performances of' this peal at Norwich and Saffron Walden is correct, how can it be explained that Snowdon should have ignored them altogether?'

May I inform him that Mr. Snowdon visited Norwich in 1877 or 1879 and, got what information he could but at that time the ringers at Norwich had lost sight of the performances and forgotten all about them. They did not know of their existence. If they had when they reorganised their society (the Norwich Scholars) they would have included these two peals in their list of performances. In a copy of the rules of the Norwich Scholars in my possession dated 1884 no mention is made of a peal being rung between 1737 and 1760, and for the information relating to the peals rung in 1760 and 1769 they relied on, the Osborne MSS.

Between these dates the Norwich men rang a peal at King's Lynn in 1766, also 10,192 Bob Major in 1768 neither of which appears in the list of peals rung by the Norwich Scholars. Thus it is easily explained. The men that rang at Norwich did not know of these peals and the records of them were brought to light and made known through the efforts of Mr. P. Sadler and Samuel Slater who carefully searched all the East Anglian newspapers seeking for ringing history. Mr. Snowdon did not know of the existence of these peal records. They were not brought to light until after his death.

On page 118 of his ‘Grandsire' Mr. Snowdon says from what Source the College Youths got their information relating to the peal in 1689-90 he is unable to say and that he believed that tradition was the only source to which this statement can now be traced. I have heard the question asked, ‘Where did they get the information from?', and all the change ringing historians have up until now been unable to answer the question.

On page 118 of Snowdon ‘Grandsire' the author states: 'As far as he is, aware there is no existing record of a true peal of 5,000 changes having been rung previous to the peal at Norwich in 1715.' I have not a record of 'one having been rung earlier. –Yours truly,

Hunt's Hill, Glemsford. - THEODORE E. SLATER.

[Mr. Slater’s letter which was received after our leading article of last week was written came to hand just too late for insertion in the last issue. It bears out our suggestion that Jasper Snowdon was unaware of the existence of these records. ED. 'R.W.']

From Ringing World (September 27, 1974):


Dear Sir,—In congratulating Mr. W. T. Cook on his excellent article on the freshly discovered Charles Barber notebook, I hope he will excuse me refuting the now rather hoary claim that James Bartlett was the first man to call Holt's Original while ringing at St. Giles-in-the-Fields in 1791.

After Holt had called the peal from the MS at St. Margaret's, Westminster, in July 1751, William Walker called it, again from a MS, at Stonham Aspal on 31 January 1752. On 22 August the same year it was rung for the first time with the conductor taking a bell. This was at St. Michael Coslany in Norwich and, although we cannot be absolutely sure who the conductor was, it was probably William Dixon. Certainly Dixon called the composition off the treble at St. Giles, Norwich, that October 22.

On Christmas Day, 1753, Charles Baron called it from the 2nd at Saffron Walden, repeating the performance there a week later.

All of these peals were rung by local bands, and it is interesting to surmise how they may have acquired the figures of the peal.

Both the Suffolk and the Norfolk men clearly knew of the Westminster performance. The Stonham Aspal band quite correctly claimed their performance as "being the second time ever rung", and the Norwich men said that :

"It has been rung in London, and at Stonham Aspal, with Prompts, but was rung here by these Men without a Prompt . . . . [this] being the first time [it was] ever performed by eight Men only."

This could be explained by the Westminster peal having been reported in the London newspapers, which would have been available in Ipswich and Norwich within a day of publication. But it is most unlikely that any of these papers would have printed Holt's figures. And, although we know that there were close links between London and Norwich ringers, and in turn between Norwich and Stonham Aspal, dates suggest the Suffolk ringers may have obtained the figures first—Yours, etc.,

CYRIL A. WRATTEN. Charlton Kings, Glos.

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