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In the tower, we are conscious of being custodians of an important part of our heritage. The building is one of Wokingham’s oldest, and by practising English style bell ringing, we help to keep alive a centuries old tradition. People are always fascinated when they discover the richness hidden behind the familiar sound of English bellringing, so we try to take every opportunity to share our heritage with members of the community.
Every year during one September weekend, thousands of historic buildings across the country that would not normally do so, open their doors to visitors. In Wokingham, there are always some buildings open, and the History Group organises guided tours round the town.
This year we opened the tower as well. It is a while since last did so, but we have learnt how to be better at publicity, and on this occasion it paid off handsomely. We hoped for around 60 people, and reckoned we could cope with 80-90, but we had 130! Somehow, during what for us were four and a half gruelling hours, we sent them all away very happy, and quite a bit less ignorant about bells and ringing. Everything went smoothly, despite the extra numbers, as we had put a lot of thought into the organisation, drawing on the experience of over a dozen smaller visits as part of our community involvement over the last few years. The effort was well worth it, as we saw the obvious interest of the visitors, some of whom came from as far away as Australia and America.
We had good press coverage too, featuring prominently in The Wokingham Times, both before and after the event. We also had an unexpected bonus, which came out of our good relationship with the Information Centre in the Town Hall. A aspirational magazine called 'Totally Wokingham' sent a photographer to cover the day, and their October edition included a double page spread of glossy pictures taken in the tower. There are several copies around the Parish.
We are lucky to have a tower that is well suited to events like this. We have good access to all levels, so visitors can see everything. To cap it all, our tower has a roof, also with easy access, that gives visitors a superb view over the town and the surrounding countryside.
If you have never been up the tower, there are pictures on our website, see: http://www.allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/ASTower/ASTower.html If you, or a group, would like to visit the tower, please let us know.
John Harrison ( November 2006 )
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