All Saints' Kempston Bell Ringers



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Noel Wiles:  

25th December 1883 – 30th April 1938

Age 54

 The following obituary was published in The Ringing World of 1938 Page 347



The death occurred early on Saturday April 30th 1938 of Mr Emmanuel Noel Wiles, of Kempston, Bedfordshire, at the age of 54 years.

For many years Mr. Wiles was a valued and highly respected member of the Bedfordshire Association, and was, until recently, always a regular in Sunday service ringing at All Saints’ Church, Kempston, where he learned to ring.   Being caretaker at the cemetery, he could not often attend meetings or stand in a peal, but whenever possible he did his best for the welfare of ringing in the county and was especially good with learners.

It was with very real regret that his colleagues learned the news of his death at this comparatively early age, and he will be sadly missed.

The funeral took place in Kempston Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon (May 2nd),  and was attended by many of his fellow-ringers of Kempston and Mr. Frank C. Tysoe (hon. Secretary, Bedford District), Mr. H.  L. Harlow, Mr. P. C. Bonnett and others.   The bells of the Parish Church were rung half-muffled in the evening.


The following are extracts from an article by the late Gerald Wiles (Noel Wiles’ son) which was published in the May 2010 edition of Kempston Calling under the heading of “Life at the Kempston Cemetery 1914-1939.

On the 1st of August 1914, my family moved from Bedford North End to Kempston Cemetery Lodge.   My father had been appointed caretaker, having previously worked in Bedford Cemetery for several years.   Father had been brought up in the village of Ravensden.   He was the tenth in a family of fifteen and had lived in a two roomed, thatched cottage near the church.   At the age of ten, he reached a certain education standard and had to leave school, although he had an older brother and sister at the same school.   He commenced work as a houseboy for the village squire, Colonel Sunderland, and had to provide wood and coal for the house fires and also clean the shoes etc.   Later he helped the gamekeeper and then had other work on the farm.   After some years he managed to obtain a bicycle and then worked for Garlicks, the monumental masons in Prebend Street.

Before being appointed as the caretaker at Kempston Cemetery, my father was interviewed by Mr Walter Harter of the Bury and Major Beaumont of Crossland Fosse.   On being considered capable of doing this work, he was told that they wished to meet his wife, to see if she was a suitable person to live in the Cemetery Lodge.   I think the remuneration was about 28 shillings per week, payable on the last day of each month and based on the number of Mondays in the month.

It is rather difficult to differentiate between actual memories and information told to me later, but I still have some clear recollections of happenings during the 1914-18 war.

My father’s occupation was at first considered to be of the ‘reserved’ variety, on condition that he worked at least fourteen hours per week for one of the local farmers.   Any payment was transferred to the Local Authority or the Government.   In 1916 he was called up for army duty and served in the Army Tank Corps for several years at Wareham in Dorset.   I remember running along Cemetery Road when father was seen approaching carrying his kitbag.

On arriving at Kempston, my father had to be taught how to ring the church bells, as one of his duties was to inform the community of the death of one of the local inhabitants.   This could occur at short notice, at any time of the day.   For a child, bell number two would be tolled for a short time and after a short break, the treble bell would be slowly tolled for the number of times denoting the age of the child.   For a female grown-up, the treble bell would be rung for a short time and after a break this would be followed by bell number two.   The age of the female would then be tolled.   For a male, the ringing of the treble and bell number two would be followed by the base bell and then age recorded.

Workers in the surrounding fields would carefully count the tolls and then have a good guess as to who had died.   If father happened to be one out in his tolling, he was invariably informed of his error.   He later became a regular member of the church bell ringers and is recorded as being a member of the first team of ringers to complete the ringing of a complete peal on the church bells.   He also had to attend church for all funeral services and take the wooden handcart to the church so that it was available for the undertaker’s use.

My father died in 1938, after a four year illness, having spent a considerable time in a London hospital.