James Bruerton

James Bruerton, known for his 12-part peal composition of Grandsire Triples, came from Darlaston, Staffordshire, and was born around 1845. During the 1870s he was licensee of the Dartmouth Arms, Darlaston, and in 1874 there was a press entry for the Walsall Board of Guardians: ‘James Bruerton, licensed victualler, appointed collector of the poor rate for Bentley’ (Bentley being close to Darlaston). By the 1890s he was living in Wolverhampton where he died in the second quarter of 1903 aged 58. No report of his death has yet been traced in local papers, nor was an obituary published in Bell News.

All the known records of his ringing relate to peals and date touches rung at Darlaston, the earliest being a date touch of 1863 Grandsire Triples rung by a local band on 28th February 1863. This was followed by the same band ringing a peal of Grandsire Triples on 19th March 1863, composed by Solomon Biddlestone. On 22nd December 1863 James Bruerton conducted a peal of Grandsire Triples. The composer was not named but it contained 182 bobs and 58 singles, the same as Biddlestone’s. The first peal found so far where James Bruerton is named as the composer, is one conducted by William Johnson on 17th December 1870 (Bruerton was not in the band). Like Biddlestone’s, the composition is a 12-part, based on 3 lead courses but with calls at 2 and 3 (instead of 1 and 3) to keep the 5th fixed throughout (instead of the 6th). But Bruerton’s also has the 6 and 7 home at each part end, alternately wrong and right. No doubt it is these features that have made Bruerton’s much more popular than Biddlestone’s ever since. James Bruerton is also reported as having composed and conducted a date touch of 1867 Grandsire Triples on 17th February 1867; this is not an obvious length for triples – perhaps spliced with major? The next and last record found of his ringing was a date touch of 1879 Grandsire Triples rung on handbells at his house on 19th October 1879, composed and conducted by John Carter, who also originated from Darlaston. No further records of Bruerton’s ringing have been found and he may have given up ringing soon afterwards, but John Carter, some 8 years his junior, went on to become the well known ringer, composer, inventor of ringing machines, gunsmith, marksman and all round genius that we remember today.

I am indebted to John Eisel for providing information from newspaper reports from his own researches, which have enabled the short biography above to be put together. Details of more recent peals of Bruerton’s 12-part, plus some earlier ones copied from Bell News and The Ringing World, can be found on BellBoard. Some of these were erroneously attributed to ‘S Bruerton’.

Peter Blight
19 October 2018

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