Richard Casserley: In Memoriam
Updated: Jan 5, 2018
Following last month’s piece about Richard Casserley, here is a fuller account, drawn from an article by Prudence Fay in ‘The Ringing World,’ which proves yet again how St Giles continues to attract real characters.
Richard, who died on 19th October, aged 80, was a ringer with many interests, which he pursued intensively. At his funeral on 7th November at Berkhamsted, he was described as ‘a one-off’ and ‘something of an English eccentric. ‘Richard liked old things’ said a friend, such as the ancient and disreputably battered briefcase he always carried. He was invariably to be found after practice in the nearest pub with a pint and most likely a pork pie, and he owned two ancient cars, one a 1957 Morris Minor, for which in 2007 he organised a 50th-birthday quarter peal, and the other, a Morris 12/4 c.1935 that his father had bought during the war, registration CMH 79, and which he still drove in summer to Sunday ringing. Even until recently he was making old-fashioned hand signals.
Within ringing itself, Richard had two further passions: ringing quarter peals, and ‘tower-grabbing’ [which means, I think, visiting other towers: Alan]. Friends’ detective work after his death settled on a total of 2,364 quarter-peals of which 230 were rung at his home tower [Berkhamsted], more than 500 at his other tower, St Giles-in-the-Fields and a further 399 in churches in the Chilterns. Of ‘tower-grabbing’ it is reckoned that his total was an astonishing 6,363. The last ‘grab’ was on 7th October, less than a fortnight before he died, at Houghton in Hampshire. He rang only 13 (full) peals, the first in 1971 and the last in 1985 – both for the Railway Guild.
Richard was a steam-engine and railway enthusiast all his life, and also worked for British Railways. A group of us were very impressed when because of a cancelled train we were stranded with him on a ringing outing into the Kent borders of outer London. Richard nonchalantly approached the station master and had the next train make an unscheduled stop at the station to pick us up.
His father, H. C. Casserley, was a famous railway photographer and from him Richard inherited his vast archive of railway photos dating back beyond the 1930s. Richard and his daughter Mary together produced a book entitled Steaming Through Berkhamsted, which came off the presses (sadly) just a few days too late for him to see it.
In the mid-1970’s he joined the regular Thursday-lunchtime band at St Giles-in-the-Fields, Holborn, and in April 1997, when Keith Matthews had to retire suddenly because of ill health, Richard was elected ringing master, a post he held for ten years. The main event during his mastership was the restoration of St Giles’s historic ring of bells in 2006. James Ingham, who was treasurer at the time, notes that it was Richard’s suggestion of making a substantial interest-free loan to the church for this, as well as making a donation to the fund, that was ‘a game changer . . . in translating the project from a rough plan to something we could really achieve.’ Richard also took the lead liaising with the then Rector, The Revd. Dr. Bill Jacob, and he helped significantly to bring the bells and the ringers closer to the church and the congregation – particularly after Sunday evensong in the Angel pub next door!
‘In his zeal for quarter peals and ‘tower-grabs,’ he was aided and abetted by his friend, the late Stella Shell, also a St Giles ringer, often vying with her in The Ringing World’s lists for top quarter peal ringer of the year. He will be much missed. At his request the bells at St Peter’s were rung half-muted before his funeral Requiem by many friends. He and his wife Margaret were married in 1964; they had five children and three grandchildren.
Tom Lawrence, the current ringing master, adds: On a brighter note, I'm pleased to report that our peal to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was successful, as follows:
MIDDLESEX COUNTY ASSOCIATION & LONDON DIOCESAN GUILD
HOLBORN, London, St Giles-in-the-Fields
Saturday, 25th November 2017 | 3 hours, 10 minutes (14)
5024 Rutland Surprise Major
Comp. P M Mason (No.94)
#2#Thomas F Lawrance (C)
#3#Caroline A Stockmann
#4#E Lesley Barclay
#5#J Richard Anthony
#6#Martin B Sutcliffe
#7#Edward J W Manley