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SAVORY, Rudolph Roger (1930-2020) – From Badsey to New Jersey: bellringing across two continents

Roger Savory
Roger Savory in 1956.

The death of Roger Savory in America two months ago, at the age of 90, has just come to our attention.

In the early years of this century, when the original Badsey website was in its infancy, Roger Savory was an early contributor; he wrote several fascinating articles about the history of Badsey’s church bells.  Roger had been notified of the website’s existence by his cousin, the late Pat Goldstraw.  Despite living in the States since 1978, Roger remained a Badsey boy at heart and bellringing, which he had learnt in St James’ Church as a teenager under the careful tutelage of Charles Binyon, remained an important part of his life wherever he was in the world.  It’s thanks to Roger that we know so much about the history of Badsey bells.

Rudolph Roger Savory (known as Roger) was born at Badsey on 8th February 1930, the only child of Maurice George Savory, a fruit grower, and his wife, Maggie Adeline (née March).  Roger was baptised two months later on Easter Sunday in St James’ Church, Badsey.

Roger spent his early years at a house on Brewers Lane which his parents rented.  They then moved to The Little Cottage in the High Street (present-day No 34) in 1937, which they rented from Mrs Pat Morris.  Roger grew up next-door to the Jones family and played a lot with Llewellyn Jones’ sons, Barry and Bruce.  Roger remembered vividly waking up one June morning in 1940 and looking out of his bedroom window to see the churchyard full of soldiers:  they were survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation.  In 1944, Roger and his parents moved to Sidr Bishr, the house on Bretforton Road (present-day No 17) where his grandfather lived.   

Roger was a pupil at Badsey Council School from 1935-1941 and was Head Boy during his final year.  He then won a scholarship to Prince Henry’s Grammar School. 

Roger was a regular attender at St James’ Church and a member of the Sunday School.  It was in 1943 as a 13-year-old that Roger took up bellringing, responding to an appeal for local teenagers to take the place of the men who had gone off to war.  He was taught to chime by Charles Binyon who was one of the Sunday School teachers.  Mr Binyon had been a friend of Roger’s father since Maurice first moved to Badsey in the 1920s and was a frequent visitor to their home.  The following year Roger started to learn how to ring a bell “full circle”.  Roger has written eloquently about his early ventures into bellringing in the article, Badsey Bells and Memories of Charles Binyon

On leaving Prince Henry’s Grammar School in 1949, Roger undertook service in the Royal Navy for two years (bellringing in his spare time in Kent, Essex and Suffolk).  He then went on to Birmingham University to study Chemical Engineering.  Initially he lived at home, which enabled him to continue bellringing at Badsey and, in 1952 he was made Tower Captain of the Badsey band of ringers.  In his final years at Birmingham, Roger lived in digs and was able to pursue his love of bellringing in the city.  He was a founder member of the Birmingham University Society of Change Ringers and was their first Master.

After graduating from Birmingham in 1955, Roger moved to Southampton.  However, he was back in Badsey in May of the following year when, on 19th May 1956, Roger conducted a band of ringers who set a record for the longest peal ever rung on the bells at Badsey.  Roger had composed the peal which was a “Plain Bob Major”; it had 6000 changes and took 3 hours 30 minutes to complete.  This was Roger’s swan-song at Badsey because his new work and home in Hampshire meant that he now concentrated on bellringing in that county, ultimately becoming Master of the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers.

Roger moved to the USA for work in 1978, settling in Chatham, New Jersey, USA.  He worked for Exxon Research and Engineering for many years before retiring in 1995.  He became involved with the North American Guild of Change Ringers and was a member of St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chatham, where he sang in the choir and was a lay reader.  He moved to Bridgewater, New Jersey, in 2012.

In 2006, St James’ Church, Badsey, celebrated 300 years of the bells.  A leaflet entitled A Celebration of 300 years of bells 1706-2006 at St James was produced for the Patronal Festival Service.  This was a reprint of a history of bells which had been written by Roger.

In the February 2020 issue of Community News, Robert Hall, who was one of the 1956 band of Badsey ringers, wrote about being taught to ring by Roger who he said was an excellent teacher.  He spoke with awe about the epic 3½-hour peal, concluding:  “Roger Savory arranged and conducted it all.  It was the longest peal on the bells of St James and still stands today.  Roger left the village but continued to achieve high regard in ringing circles becoming one of the most proficient ringers in the country.  He will be 90 this year, lives in the USA.  Roger and I are the only ones left of that peal band.”  A full peal was rung at St James’ Church on 8th February 2020, Roger’s 90th birthday.

Roger died at Bridgewater, New Jersey, on 13th March 2020, a month after his 90th birthday.  His obituary appeared on the website of the Bruce C Van Arsdale Funeral Home, Somerville, New Jersey.  Roger was described as “an avid and distinguished bell ringer, encouraged by Mr Charles Binyon, his Sunday School teacher at Badsey Church.”  An obituary also appeared in the journal of the North American Guild of Change Ringers.  Roger is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

Maureen Spinks, May 2020

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