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The second in an occasional series of articles about Barford people, past and present.



Gordon BenfieldGordon Benfield, who was Rector and Vicar of our three parishes, died in August 2004 in Cambridgeshire.

He spent his early years in his native Yorkshire and learned to ring bells when he was 14. By the time he left the area in 1965, he had rung some 200 peals.

His National Service in the Far East was followed by study for a Bachelor of Divinity Degree at London University. This he gained in 1960 with a Diploma in Education being awarded at Leeds the same year. Gordon’s association with education had started back in 1948 and he taught in primary and secondary schools in Leeds and the West Riding for nearly 15 years up to 1962.

From 1962 Gordon held the post of Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Mather College, Manchester before moving to become Adviser in Religious Education for Hampshire. While there he rang at Winchester Cathedral and met Mary who was a teacher in the area and they were married in 1966. Married life was blessed with the arrival of Emma and then William. Emma went on to become a doctor in Cambridge, married to a surgeon and with two children. William, who lives in America and works in the shipping industry, is also married with two children.

Continuing his career in education Gordon was an Inspector of Schools covering primary education and teacher training over the period 1970-1984, latterly being on the Staff of HMI based in Whitehall. In parallel with education, Gordon’s strong Christian beliefs led him to study for the Lambeth Diploma in Theology and, in 1980, received a Masters Degree in Theology and Education in Birmingham. It was no surprise, therefore, that he was ordained in 1980 and became a non-stipendiary minister attached to St. Mary’s, Warwick and St. Mary’s, Selly Oak.

For five years Gordon was principal of Westhill College, Selly Oak before being appointed Rector of Barford with Sherbourne and Wasperton in 1990.

As parish priest controlling two rings, a 6 and a 3, it was inevitable that Gordon expressed an early intention to augment the 3 bells at St. Peter’s, Barford to 6. In pursuing this end he was the key mover in fund raising, planning and, ultimately, training of new ringers. The new ring was dedicated on 2nd October, 1994 and Gordon took part in the first peal on the bells on 11th November, conducted by the late Peter Border. Gordon’s name is inscribed on the new treble bell and also appears for posterity on the first peal board. During his time in Warwickshire Gordon rang 43 peals for the Coventry Guild.

Gordon was a popular parish priest with a great sense of humour, taking part in comedy turns at such events as Harvest Supper and other social occasions. Being musically inclined he gave great support and encouragement to the choir. Another major contribution to the parish was his successful opposition (as Chairman of the Governors) to the proposed closure of the local primary school at Barford which resulted in its retention as a Voluntary Aided School. One of the memorable events for the parish was when Gordon did a sponsored “preach-in” and spoke most eloquently for 12 hours raising £2,700 for church funds!

Early on in his ministry in the Plurality, Gordon set up two discussion groups – one for committed Christians and the other known as “Agnostics Anonymous”. These groups merged to become “The Seekers”, a group which continues and thrives discussing a wide range of topics such as the interface between Science and Religion and matters of contemporary interest with a moral component.

He also took up archery and belonged to a local club which follows the tradition of longbow shooting at a clout target.The club marked his passing by shooting four whistling arrows and one black arrow - a mark of respect for a fallen comrade dating from medieval times.

Gordon became Rural Dean of Shipston and Chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital, Warwick part of the Warwickshire NHS Mental Health Trust. His final move was to be Priest in Charge at Witchford with Wentworth, Cambridgeshire. Here he also took on the role of Chaplain at Ely Cathedral and Chairman of Ely Probus.

Gordon’s seemingly unbounded energy extended into voluntary work which included being National Chairman of the Christian Education Movement, Chairman of the Birmingham Association of Youths Clubs and Chairman of the NHS Complaint Appeals. Beyond all this he maintained his interests in educational and religious writing, music, archery, painting, walking, travel and of course ringing.

It is small wonder that with his wide and dedicated work Gordon was most appropriately honoured with the award of OBE in 1995.

Gordon’s funeral took place in Ely Cathedral on 20th August attended by over 200 people from many areas of his life and to whom he meant so much. The moving service included a hymn with words written by him and a poem by his wife Mary read by their son William. A peal was rung at Warwick in his memory the following day.

Whether in the field of education, as a parish priest, a bell ringer or a friend, Gordon contributed so much to those around him, but was never pompous nor lost his sense of fun. He was a kind and gentle man, immensely proud of his family and he will be missed by many. We extend our sympathies to Mary, William, Emma and his grandchildren.

An edited version of an obituary written by Chris Mew and published in ‘The Ringing World’ of 8th October 2004 with additions by Chris Hayward

February 2005

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