Territorial Societies.

grblundell GRBlundell at GMuHHGsbnOV_xs4r3rNbxsy6xKxfmLxtbU0Xnpwf8pjnqg_bMpbmwYXpoIC_Vg-aTbVwI22OpWK2MmBU.yahoo.invalid
Tue Jul 17 13:41:11 BST 2007

Alan seems to ask his question at two levels - the general (why are there differences?) and the specific (why are there particular differences, especially in title and territory?)

There is probably room for real research here into old minute books, diaries, memoirs and biographies, but without having done any of this, I would chance my arm on the following:

With the exception of the St Martin's Guild, the Oxford Society and maybe a few others, territorial societies as we know them today are products of the mid nineteenth century belfry reform movement - even the postwar societies such as the Leicester DG.

But this does not imply that the societies were created on a top down pattern - no one, be they concerned clergyman or unifying and CC founding baronet, dictated that societies be formed. Rather, the motivation seems to have come more locally.

And that being the case, societies were formed in line with local areas of significance and with local titles.

I would further surmise that the areas to be served came first and the title second. In general, it would seem that societies were formed for whatever was seen as a 'large local' area. The definition of this seems to vary from area to area - in Yorkshire (which may be a special case - witness the Doncaster & District quoted by Mike) the county seems to have been chosen. Were the dioceses too big at the time, too small or in too much flux? Were there too many non-Anglican rings to make a church based structure appropriate? 

And in the Oxford Diocese (certainly a special case - the EBSE society predates the guild with which it merged and had a territory defined not by church or civil boundaries but if anything (and then only at a stretch) by Great Western Railway services) an ecclesiastical territory was chosen. Were the counties too small or too poor to support societies of their own?

I would suggest that once a territory was chosen, the title then followed. As Mike Chester has pointed out, Dioceses normally have guilds while counties tend to Associations, though we all know of exceptions (G&B, Suffolk). I seem to remember reading somewhere that the term 'Guild' was deliberately old fashioned, hoping to hark back to the medieval trade guilds - hence, maybe, its use by church led socities?


Giles Blundell


More information about the Bell-historians mailing list