Bell-ringers to revive old ‘gotch’ tradition

BELLS and beer might not be an obvious combination but there is a link between the two that goes back centuries. And the connection is something the bell-ringers at St Mary’s Church in Hadleigh are keen to rekindle.

They have just resurrected a 16-quart ancient bell-ringers’ “gotch” or beer pitcher dating back to 1715, bearing the names of ringers at the tower at the time, and a rhyme.

In the 1700s it was commonplace for bell towers to own a gotch, which was filled with beer to sustain the ringers because water at the time was often impure.

Not many of the originals remain and those that are still in existence are in museums or kept behind glass.

But the Hadleigh ringers are keen to revive the traditions of the gotch, so in addition to getting the pottery artefact restored, they have also commissioned a new one to be made by a local potter.

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Ringer and Hadleigh Society member Jan Byrne said: “We are lucky enough to have 15 people who ring regularly at the church and we try to make practice nights fun and enjoyable.

“The original gotch was left in a cupboard and was a bit worse for wear when we got it out to be restored, so we thought it would be a great idea to get a new one made so we can drink out of it again.”

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The gotch has in interesting history. A newspaper from the 1850s noted: “The ringers of Hadleigh have in their possession a curious jug of earthenware, which is kept by the landlord of the Eight Bells Inn and is bought out on occasions of local weddings among the upper classes.” The gotch was also sold by the ringers during the 1850s and went “missing” until the 1940s.

The ringers are keen to hear from anyone who knows where it was in between those dates.

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