The Winchester Diocesan Guild was founded on June 26th 1879 thanks to the efforts of two young ringers, the Rev. Arthur du Boulay Hill and the Rev Canon F. T. Madge.
At this time the Diocese of Winchester was vast, stretching from parts of the Greater London area in the east to Bournemouth in the west and including the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. The Islands and Bournemouth are still in the Guild today, but in 1924 the diocese was divided into 3 and the new dioceses of Guildford and Portsmouth formed. After much discussion (see The Ringing World December 23/30 1977) it was decided that Guildford should form a separate guild and Portsmouth remain with Winchester to form the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild.
Initially there were just 7 bands in the Guild (Farnham, Godalming, Hursley, St. Michael's Southampton, Weybridge, Winchester and Yately) with 52 ringing members. By the end of the century the Guild was well established and it was necessary to create districts. 7 were created which remain much the same today, with Guildford and Dorking being replaced by Andover and the Isle of Wight. An 8th district, the Channel Islands, was created in 1981. Membership of the Guild reached over 1460 following a membership drive to enable the bells in every tower to be rung for the Millenium. It has decreased slightly but still stood at a healthy 1353 in 2005.
See Past Officers for the names of the Guild officers from 1879 to the present day.
This brief history was abstracted from articles by Kenneth Croft and Roy LeMarechal in The Ringing World June 22, 1979.