Tributes have been paid to a man who dedicated his life to maintaining the tradition of church bell-ringing, voluntary education and promoting local history. 

Dennis Hewitt, of Malta Road in Leyton, who rang the bells at St Mary's Church in Church Hill, Walthamstow, since 1956, died on March 11, aged 78.

Mr Hewitt was well-known in the community for his contribution to, and passion for local history, as well as being a long-standing member of the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) group in Shernall Street, Walthamstow, for 30 years.

A fellow WEA member Katrina Finch was with Mr Hewitt when he died of a heart attack.

Ms Finch, 65, of Bisterne Avenue, Walthamstow, was taking Mr Hewitt home from their weekly WEA session when she realised he was not responding and drove him to Whipps Cross Hospital. 

She said: "The whole class will miss Dennis terribly. He was a modest man with an enormous thirst for knowledge and, above all, was committed to history and bell-ringing.

"He was quietly assertive and lived a solitary life, but was liked by many for his enthusiasm and always managed to impress people with his breadth of knowledge." 

Mr Hewitt contributed significantly to the restoration and continuation of the 200-year history of bell ringing at St Mary’s through fund-raising efforts.

He was particularly skilled at ringing peals, a specific type of performance involving 8 to 10 bells and rang over 975 peals in his lifetime.  

David Baker, a ringer at St Mary's first worked with Mr Hewitt in 2008.

"I met up with Dennis in 2008, when the church celebrated 900 years of ministry and he lead a team of ringers from the surrounding area, demonstrating ringing and letting people have ago.

"Dennis’ passing leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill but he does leave a grateful band of ringers who will continue the tradition he loved so much," said Mr Baker.

Reverend Simon Heathfield described Mr Hewitt as a "gifted and committed leading bell ringer.

"Dennis has enriched east London more than many will know and we feel his loss but are thankful for his life."

Mr Hewitt's nephew Gary Wrench, 50, of Lake Rise in Romford, said he was respected all over the country for his association with campanology.

"He will be sadly missed and although he never married, he was still part of our close family.

"He was a quiet man but what I do know is that he was well-respected by the bell-ringing community in London, Essex and across the country.”