Trevor Reynolds’ Photograph Collection

The Trevor Reynolds collection

Photographs of over 3,000 churches with bells entrusted to Historic England

by Chris Pickford

The albums and the ringing books
The albums and the ringing books

A unique collection of photographs taken by a retired electrician from Pattingham has been added to the Historic England photographic archive at Swindon. Containing pictures of an impressive assortment of churches in the British Isles taken between 1944 and 2002 – some 55% of those with “ringing bells”. Some of those churches have gone. Others have undergone subsequent changes. Some still stand but in surroundings that have greatly altered.

This one-man visual record of British parish churches through six decades of rapid change came about through the photographer’s lifelong passion for bellringing. Now in his nineties, Trevor Reynolds learned to ring as a teenager at St.Luke’s, Blakenhall, Wolverhampton. He quickly became proficient and in his early years took part in several full peals to an advanced level.

Album page
One of the album pages

His passion, though, was for visiting new towers and between 1944 and 2002 he rang in no less than 3071 different churches across the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland. Like most ringers he kept a record of his visits. Trevor went a stage further and personally photographed every single one and placed the prints in albums in the order in which he visited. So all 3071 prints are identified and dated.

When discussing the arrangements to be made for the collection Trevor told us how he had begun taking the photographs very early in his ringing life. He used the same camera for several decades, only turning to colour photography in his final album. Talking about his ringing years he still had very clear memories, telling several amusing stories of his adventures. These included escaping from the RAF base to go ringing while on National Service and narrowly catching the last train back to Wolverhampton after a day out in London in 1954. He was also well informed on current affairs in ringing.

Album page
One of the album pages

Trevor is proud to have rung at every tower with ringing bells in Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire – and in southern Ireland. He has also rung at all the Cathedrals and his collection includes famous towers such as St.Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Liverpool Cathedral, Manchester Town Hall and the Queen’s Tower (Imperial College) in South Kensington. All these are quietly listed in his records and his visits are documented in photographs that he has taken personally.

Ill health brought Trevor’s ringing days to an end in 2002 but his ten albums and complete set of all eleven editions of “Dove’s Guide” – the ringers’ ‘bible’ – remained treasured possessions. He has always hoped to find a permanent home for them where they will be of value to others. As the collection covers so much more than just his own local area it was hard to know where to send it.

Trevor with other ringers
Trevor (2nd from right) with the Pattingham ringers on an outing to Monmouthshire in 2002 during which he rang at his last four new towers

When told about the collection, The Historic England Archive – previously known as the National Buildings Record – showed considerable interest. They recognised the value of the photographs as identified and dated shots of churches all over the British Isles over several decades – a period of significant change. At Swindon they will be available for study by people with a wide range of interests including architectural historians, students of town and village history – and bellringers too.

The transfer has been made possible by a number of people beginning with Trevor and his family who have donated the collection to the archives. Pattingham ringers Geoffrey Dann and John Whittall helped along the way and John created the index to the photographs asked for by the Historic England team. Chris Pickford, a ringer and retired archivist from Kinver, made the arrangements with the archives and delivered the albums to Swindon.

So Trevor’s precious collection is now in safe storage somewhere where it will be both valued for its historical significance as a unique record and accessible to anyone who wants to use it. Thanks, Trevor – and thanks, too, to the Historic England archive.

Versions of this article appeared in the Ringing World (5th March 2021), the Newsletter of the Lichfield and Walsall Archdeaconries Society (April 2021) and the Pattingham and Patshull Parish News (March 2021)