In 1970, seeking a more independent life for themselves and their young family, Tony and Betty moved to Norfolk. For 9 months they lived in a very small touring caravan in the garden of Mill House together with their three dogs, before being offered the chance to buy the then derelict Algars Farm. Rain was pouring through the thatched roof, there was no electricity, kitchen or bathroom, only a stand pipe outside for water and a shed which once housed the loo. This did not deter them and with a lot of help from friends and family they took on the task of refurbishing the home they have loved and lived in for the last 42 years. Tony’s career was now also moving in a new direction. He managed to find a job in engineering at Arthur Howell’s at Palgrave, where he became very friendly with the foreman Roy Allen. After three years at Palgrave Tony was invited by Roger and Geoffrey Aves to go and work for them. They had just purchased Bressingham Engineers and needed someone to repair lawn mowers and make equipment for Farmhand. After a short while they took on a partner Philip Slapp who took the business in a new direction, making equipment for the oil industry. Tony became a coded welder and later the works foreman. Betty also got a job there looking after the office and the accounts. Tony worked at Bressingham Engineers for 13 years until he took voluntary redundancy to go self employed. This gave him the opportunity to help Roy Allen in his newly formed business and advance his creative skills in wrought iron.
The 1970s and 80s were happy family years, when the boys were growing up and taking up new interests and hobbies. They loved to help their dad working on the house, and Betty had many heart-stopping moments when she would come outside and find them at the top of a ladder passing him tiles or tools and on occasion, in Kevin’s case, sitting astride the apex of the roof while Tony swept the chimney. Tony was very proud of their sporting and musical achievements, Kevin played rugby for Diss and they both played in the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band, Mark on trumpet and Kevin trombone. They also formed a group with their friends Stephen and David, called Group 4 and practised regularly in the sitting room. Family holidays were few and far between as every spare penny went towards the house refurbishment but thanks to having the use of a family bungalow on the Isle of White and trips to Scotland with Betty’s brother George, Betty, Mark and Kevin have some wonderful memories to treasure.
In 1984, Diss bells were rehung and the passion for bell ringing returned. Soon Betty and Tony were ringing regularly again and even taught Kevin to ring. As the boys became more independent, Betty and Tony were able to go away on bell ringing holidays with the Norfolk and Suffolk Border Ringers and later together with 7 other friends formed the Mere Ringers, who they still toured with twice a year right up until spring 2012. In 2001 Betty was elected as President of the Ladies Guild and Tony accompanied her to Ladies Guild meetings and on their holidays proudly wearing a badge saying “President’s Chauffeur”. He became very popular with the ladies for his friendliness, politeness in the tower and jovial manner. He was also very useful if a rope should break or if there was a problem with the bells. Thanks to these holidays, Betty and Tony gained an even larger circle of friends from all different parts of the country.
His career as a bell hanger is probably due to his friendship with Dr. Paul Cattermole. It was at Paul’s suggestion that Tony should hang the single bell at Roydon, which had come from Erpingham to replace the poor sounding school type bell. Paul’s next suggestion was that he might like to tackle the ring of 6 bells at Blo Norton, which had been out of action for many years due to a rotting wooden frame. Tony replaced the rotten section with steel and rehung the bells. Many more local towers followed including Bressingham where the bells had only been chimed by means of a chiming frame for many years. Here he joined a team led by Chris Beesley and with the aid of Paul Cattermole, Aubrey Forster, Ian Grandfield and John Taylors of Loughborough, the old bells were removed, two new trebles were cast and Tony made and donated the steel frame as a life long memorial to his family. Not only was this a monumental achievement, great friendships were formed between the helpers which became even stronger as history and fate was to prove. Sadly Chris was also diagnosed with lung cancer and died the same day as Tony.
Over the years Tony has worked in 190 towers and hung approximately 500 bells and for several years worked alongside Dr. Paul Cattermole as Diocesan Bells Advisor. In later years he has been helped by Kevin, a partnership truly formed in heaven as each instinctively knew what to do without being told. They even took on making bell frames for Whitechapel Bell Foundry, when they were too busy to make them themselves, and were very proud to discover that some of their frames have gone to America.