The North Berkshire Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild (ODG) was formed on 4th December 1920 with fourteen towers and 119 members. In 1974, county boundaries were re-drawn and as a result North Berks became part of Oxfordshire. Following a referendum among the members, the branch was, perhaps predictably, renamed the Old North Berks Branch. It is one of the fifteen branches which form the Oxford Diocesan Guild.
The Branch is triangular in shape. The southern boundary roughly follows The Ridgeway with Wallingford and Cholsey in the southeast corner and Sparsholt, Childrey and the Letcombes in the southwest corner. Cumnor, just south of Oxford is at the northern apex.
There are 37 rings of three bells or more in the Branch: 3 tens, 12 eights, 14 sixes, one five, 3 fours and 3 threes and a ring of 12 with five sharp bells hung in the workshop of Whites of Appleton, the bellhangers. Of these, 3 sixes and 2 fours are unringable. Twenty-eight of these towers have ODG members and four have none. The number of Ringing Members reported in the ODG Annual Report for 2022 was 237 with 3 Honorary Members and one Life Subscriber.
The Branch is managed by a committee formed of a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, two Joint Ringing Masters, a Newsletter Editor and three Branch Representatives to the Guild General Committee. For details of the holders of these posts see the Officers page. In addition each tower is invited to send a representative to committee meetings.
The Branch maintains a programme of ringing events throughout the year aimed at improving ringing standards. These include monthly evening Branch practices and bi-monthly "advanced" practices with named methods selected for special attention. There are also bi-monthly surprise practices for more advanced ringing. Training is high on the agenda and monthly weekday sessions are held in which beginners and improvers can ask for anything from doubles to major. This is an encouraging development with good attendances from both students and helpers. The Branch also has a ringing school in Abingdon, which teaches bell handling through to call change ringing and plain hunt. Please contact the Branch Training Officer , if you would like more details.
The social side of ringing is well catered for by some traditional events, including New Year’s Day ringing with refreshments and a half-day outing, usually in July, which has over the last few years been rounded off with a barbecue. Autumn social events have included barn dances, skittles evenings and quizzes. See the Calendar page for details of Branch events.
The Branch has also been active in recent years in supporting restoration projects, such as the recent rehanging of Brightwell, Steventon and Long Wittenham. Currently the Branch is supporting the augumentation of North Moreton from six to eight bells. There is a voluntary additional £2 added to the Guild annual subscription, and this goes towards restoration projects within the Branch. Honey is also on sale at branch practices and events, and a part of the proceeds is kindly donated to the Branch for use in restoration projects.
Communications in the branch are maintained through a Newsletter produced twice a year. This web site is intended to improve communications by making them more up to date than the Newsletter can be. In addition a network of tower e-mail addresses will keep members in close touch with events and each other.