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The Bellman is one of the ancient offices of the Town and Manor of Hungerford. His role doubles as the Town Crier, as well as Assistant Bailiff, Beadle, and Crier for the Hocktide Courts.
In the modern age, the Bellman can be seen on many occasions walking around the town in his grey and hunting pink regalia, with black silk gold laced hat, carrying his bell or beadles pole, exercising his many duties, from delivering messages and communications, to leading Church and other parades, as well as making proclamations on behalf of the Traditional, Civic, Charitable, or indeed any other organisation, who can engage his vocal services.
Follow this link for more on Town & Manor traditions.
Dr Jimmy Whittaker tells us ("The Changing Faces of Hungerford, Vol I, p.30) that the current bell "was given to the town by Dr. Adrian Moreton who before his retirement was medical superintendent of the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease. He very much enjoyed his trout fishing in the Rivers Kennet and Dun."
Bellmen of Hungerford:
<1658-1683 John Savidge
1685-1699 Robert Coxhead
1700-1717 Francis Morris
1718-1763 Jonathan Bird
1763-1784 Joseph Bird
1785-1789 William Mundy
1790-1800 William Robinson
1801-1831 Henry Clements
1837-1838 James Clements
1838-1841 Thomas Reeves
1842-1846 Thomas Hart
1847-1871 John Oram
1872-1875 William Smart
1876-1879 Thomas Challis
1880-1922 Edward Bushnell
1923-1956 Sid Bushnell
1956-1957 Jean Tubb
1957-2012 Robin Tubb
2012-now Julian Tubb
From the early records:
The origin of the official position of Town Crier is unclear. John Savidge was holding the position from the 1658 Constables' Accounts.
In 1682 the crier was first given a coat:
- "Pd John Sagar for 5 yards & a qt of blew cloth for John Savage's cote - 00 14 6".
- "Pd John Hamblin for Sarge & thread & tape for Savage's cote - 00 01 9".
- "ffor 3 dozen of buttons - 00 01 6".
- "Pd John Hellier for making of John Savage's cote - 00 02 0".
John Savidge was buried 27 December 1683.
From 1688 (the year that William of Orange met the Commissioners of James II at The Bear), Robert Coxhead was "Bellman", and was paid a salary of £2 per year (plus additional fees).
A new coat was made for him:
- "For Robert Coxhead ye Bellman 4 yds & ½ of cloth at 3s 5d per yd - 14 11½".
- "6 yds & ½ of bais at 10d - 5 5½".
- "2 doz & ½ of buttons at 3½d - 8¾".
- "a qtr of an ounce & ½ qtr of silk - 6".
- "for tape and thread - 2".
In 1692 and 1693 he was given 10 shillings "to buy him a coat", which increased to £1 from 1698. This became an annual expense in the Constables' Accounts.
From 1700 Francis Morris was Bellman. In addition to the new coats, from 1702 he also received an annual new hat (at 5s). Francis Morris ended his tenure as Bellman in 1717. He was buried on 20 August 1720.
In 1718 Jonathan Bird became Bellman. His coats now cost over £2 each year. In 1724 he had a new bell:
- "Paid for change of Cryer's Bell - 6 6".
In 1726 he was also granted:
- "Westcote and Briches for ye bellman - 1 17 6",
along with "hose" at 2s 6d.
Jonathan Bird was Bellman for 45 years until his death 15 March 1763, when the post was taken over by his son Joseph Bird (born 16 Nov 1716).
There was an increase in the annual salary in 1773 to £2 2s.
1838-41 Thomas Reeves: The 1841 census shows that Thomas Reeves (aged 60 - "Town Crier") lived in "Church Green" (ie The Croft), along with his wife and two daughters.
1872-1875 William Smart: Jane Rees (of Sutton) contacted the Virtual Museum (Aug 2011) saying "My great great grandfather William Smart was born in Calne. He had started out with the police in the City of London (Cripplegate) and had moved on from Hungerford to Birmingham by 1881."
1880-1923 Edward Bushnell:
Edward Bushnell lived at what is now 3 & 4 High Street. Edward Bushnell was Town Crier from 1880 until 1923.
He ran a coffee tavern at 3 High Street (now the Tutti Pole Restaurant), and was responsible for the running of the Town Hall and Corn Exchange.
Amongst many other duties he was responsible for ringing the fire bell on the roof of the Town Hall in the event of a fire, for which he was paid 5s. 0d. - a considerable sum at the time.
Follow this for a longer article on Edward Bushnell.
He was succeeded in his role of Bellman and Town Crier by his son Sidney Bushnell.
1923-1956 Sidney Frank Bushnell:
Sid Bushnell was son of Edward Bushnell. He lived in several different houses, including where the Frys used to live in Salisbury Road (adjacent to ST John's Mission Hall - now redeveloped as St John's Court) and 56 High Street – where he was when Robin Tubb was young. Sid Bushnell died 4 Jan 1964.
1956-1957 Jean Tubb:
Jean was Sid Bushnell's daughter, and for about ten months she was Bellman, but soon encouraged her son Robin to take on the post.
1957-2012: Robin Tubb:
Robin Tubb was the fourth generation of his family to hold the post, following his Great Grandfather Edward Bushnell, Great Uncle Sid Bushnell, and his mother Jean Tubb. Robin was appointed in 1957, and he held the record as the longest serving crier in the world. At a special celebration on 2 Jun 2007 Robin celebrated 50 years as Bellman and Town Crier, and 127 years by the same family.
In Sep 1978 Robin Tubb hosted the inaugural meeting of The Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers in Hungerford. Eleven criers attended from Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Kent and Sussex.
On his death on 3 Jan 2012 Robin had been Bellman and Town Crier for nearly 55 years - a record of fine service to the town and community of Hungerford.
For the next three months, the duties of Bellman were ably carried out by Tyrrel Bossom, but at Hocktide 2012, it was announced that the post would be taken by a nephew of Robin Tubb, Julian Tubb, and the post therefore continues in the same family line.
2012 - now: Julian Tubb:
Julian became Bellman in April 2012 following the death of his uncle Robin Tubb. (Julian's father Brian was Robin's brother). Julian therefore carries on the family tradition which goes back for over 135 years.
He is a career Fire and Rescue Administrator for Royal Berkshire County.
During the 2018 Hocktide celebrations, Julian Tubb was unwell, and his place was taken at short notice by Acting Bellman Stewart Hofgartner.
- Sidney Frank Bushnell, Bellman 1923-1956. Photo dated c1935-39.
The Hungerford Carnival and Centenary Town Criers Competition 12 Jul 1980 (Kindly provided by Jane Malham). Click here for the full pdf
- "The Word on the Street - A History of the Town Crier and Bellman", by David Mitchell, IISBN 978 1 9160047 0 2, Widespread Books, 2019