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Revd. F E Robinson and Wokingham

Francis Edward Robinson, MA (Oxon) is buried in the churchyard of All Saints Wokingham. He moved to Wokingham in 1908, after a serious illness forced him to retire, and died shortly afterwards in 1910, at the age of 77. For the previous 30 years he had been the vicar of Drayton Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire). Earlier in life he had been a partner in the Old Bank, Oxford.

Master of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers

Robinson's funeralRobinson's funeralRobinson is most famous as one of the founders of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers At the meeting in Reading on 13th November 1880 to consider the formation of a Guild, it was Robinson who, when it came to electing a committee, rose from the floor with a prepared list of names of who should be on it. The list included 7 clergymen and 7 well known ringers. It included Robinson himself, who was both a ringer and a clergyman. At the inaugural meeting in Oxford on 17th January 1881, Robinson was duly elected as the Guild’s first master, a position that he held until his death 29 years later in 1910.

The pictures here show the procession, and the crowds gathered around the grave side at his funeral. (Click for larger versions of the funeral pictures, and pictures showing how the same places appear today).

Robinson tried to retire from the post several times during his last ten years in office, when he had several illnesses, but each time the committee persuaded him to stay on. This pattern of long serving masters, all of whom were clerics, lasted for nearly a century: Revd C W O Jenkyn  1910 - 1933, Canon G F Coleridge 1933 - 1946 and Canon C E Wigg 1946 - 1973. Since the 1970s however, Guild masters have all been laymen, and they have served for much shorter terms of office, with a further 8 masters covering a period of 40 years.

The Guild lists Robinson as a life member from its foundation in 1881 until his death in 1910. For all but the final two years of that time, he lived in Drayton, where he was Vicar, so this would have been his 'home tower'. For the first few years the Guild did indeed list him as a member of Drayton, but then he was listed for a few years under Appleton, and from 1890 he was listed under Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – even after he moved to Wokingham. Why he should not be listed under his home tower is unclear.

FE RobinsonCWO JenkinPhotographs of Robinson (left) and Jenkyn who succeeded him (right) are hung in many ringing towers in the Oxford Diocese, including the ringing chamber at All Saints Wokingham. Click the pictures for larger versions. The East Garston ringers' website has a fuller account of Jenkyn's life.
 

 Robinson was a prolific ringer

As well as being a great reformer, and the Guild's first master, Robinson was above all an extremely capable and prolific ringer. He was the first person ever to ring 1000 peals, something that a century later is more common, with many 1000 pealers, and even 4000 pealers. Robinson rang what he believed was his 1000th peal at Drayton on 9th August 1905. He conducted it, and the method was Stedman Triples, of which he was particularly fond. A hundred years later, on 9th August 2005, we rang a quarter peal in his honour at All Saints - see the band by his grave . After Robinson died it was found that his records didn't include all of his peals so he had actually rung his 1000th somewhat earlier than he thought. He went on to ring around 1250 peals in all.

 DRAYTON, Berks.
 On 9th August, 1905, in 2 hours 47 minutes.
 5040 STEDMAN TRIPLES
J. W. Washbrooke Jnr. Treble C. H. Fowler 5
G. A. Smith 2 H. Miles 6
F. Hopgood 3 Revd. F. E. Robinson 7
J. W. Washbrook 4 Revd. G. F. Coleridge Tenor
 Conducted by Revd. F. E. Robinson

Ringing was not Robinson's only skill. He was also a proficient wood carver, and while at Drayton had carved the organ case, the choir stalls and bench ends. He was part way through carving a chancel screen when he died.

 Commemorating Robinson

 Peal board for FE Robinson's funeralA peal in Robinson's memory, rung three days after his death, is recorded by one of the five peal boards hanging in the tower at All Saints Wokingham. His grave is under a large cedar tree. He is buried along with his wife Mary Caroline and his daughter Vera, who rang at All Saints into the '70s, and ran a team of handbell ringers when she lived in Murdoch Road. Alongside is a similar grave, but whose matt surface bears extensive lichen, unlike the polished stone of the first grave. Here are buried three other members of the family: Grace Robinson, and her sisters Constance Mary Spon and Caroline, but the grave records no dates for any of them. Click on the pictures below to see larger versions.

February 2010 was the centenary of Robinson's death. It was marked by ringers far and wide as well as in Wokingham , but the year 2010 began inausipiciously here. In January, a few weeks before the centenary, heavy snow brought down many large branches from the cedar tree standing above Robinson's grave. One of the branches narrowly missed his grave, but broke the cross off the grave next to it, where other members of his family are buried, see picture . Damage to the tree on the opposite side from the graves is even more extensive, see picture . The extent of loss can be seen by comparison with an earlier picture.

Robinson commemorative peal boardFebruary 2010 was the centenary of Robinson's death. It was marked by ringers far and wide as well as in Wokingham , but the year 2010 began inausipiciously here. In January, a few weeks before the centenary, heavy snow brought down many large branches from the cedar tree standing above Robinson's grave. One of the branches narrowly missed his grave, but broke the cross off the grave next to it, where other members of his family are buried, see picture . Damage to the tree on the opposite side from the graves is even more extensive, see picture . The extent of loss can be seen by comparison with an earlier picture . Later in the year, the ringers commissioned a new peal board to record four performances over the years rung in Robinson's memory. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Blue plaque to F E ROn 22 May 2016 a Blue Plaque to FE Robinson  was unvelied at Drayton, where he spent 30 of his most active years. Speakers at the evbent included John Harrison (All Saints Wokingham) and Dougls Beaumont (Oxford Diocesan Guild Librarian)
 

Pictures

Click on the pictures below to see a larger versions.

CedarTree.jpg
Cedar tree
GravesUnderTree.jpg
Graves under tree
GravesByWall.jpg
Graves by wall
FrancisEdwardRobinson.jpg
Francis Edward Robinson
MaryCarolineRobinson.jpg
Mary Caroline Robinson
VeraRobinson.jpg
Vera Robinson
GraceRobinson.jpg
Grace Robinson
ConstanceMarySpon.jpg
Constance Mary Spon
CarolineRobinson.jpg
Caroline Robinson
GraveDown1.jpg
Graves after the tree falls
GraveDown2.jpg
Graves after the tree falls
GraveBreak1.jpg
Close up of the damage (after branch removal)
GraveBreak2.jpg
Close up of the damage (after branch removal)
CedarDamage.jpg
Extent of damage to the tree
ChYardTreesSnow.jpg
The tree as it was the previous year
GraveBreak3.jpg
The graves after the clear-up

 In the mid 1980s, All Saints parish put the maintenance of its churchyard onto a volunteer basis. At that time, the ringers 'adopted' these two graves. Since then, one or more ringer has regularly removed weeds and kept the graves tidy.

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