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Douglas Vellender (former tower keeper at All Saints' Church)

(1932-2006) - an appreciation

image of Doug Vellender with bell rope


Hear the name Douglas Vellender, mentioned in East Garston and you invariably think of church bells.

He was without question, the driving force behind our current band of ringers and likewise to the many that have gone before. Sadly, Doug is no longer with us but his wit, dedication and total like-ability will live on with anyone that was privileged to know him, and even more so for those that were fortunate enough to be able to call him a friend. Doug learned to ring at Didbrook on the Stanway Estate in Gloucestershire. Unusually for those days he was taught by women: a ladies college had been evacuated to the area during the war and some to the students had become bellringers. When ringing recommenced once the risk of invasion was over, they were keen that there should be a band able to ring for VE Day.
image of Doug Vellender with sister Marion

Doug began to teach his family to ring, initially silently with the clappers tied. He paid no heed to the taboo against women in the bell tower and his daughters would have been the first women handle a bell rope at East Garston, even though the country’s first ever lady ringer was recorded as long ago as 1896, just 25 miles away in Basingstoke.


with his sister Marion at Didbrook 2001

In 1971 the bells were restored, moving parts cleaned, the frame repaired and the accumulated debris of years removed. The band was now augmented by several other villagers. One of  Doug’s pupils, -Richard Thumwood- is now one of the top bellringers in the country, and is frequently invited to ring at the most famous towers here and abroad.

Ringing at East Garston continued for another 15 years, but several members left for various reasons and once again the bells fell silent, except of course for the clock which Doug wound without fail twice a week. Then in 1998, as part of the countrywide “Ring in 2000” programme, Doug was again persuaded to teach a number of local recruits the fundamentals of ringing.

Thanks to his skill & love of bellringing East Garston now has an enthusiastic band of ringers, so it is hoped this centuries-old tradition can continue long into the future.

image of bellringers on an outing to Didbrook




on an outing to Didbrook with the East Garston ringers, 2001

Curated by Ken Tarbox with additional content from Tessa Huyshe and Ruth Brock