Tolling the Devil's Knell

Tolling the Devil's Knell

December 24
To celebrate the birth of Christ and the death of the Devil, All Saints Minster Church in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, rings its bell the same number of times as the number of the year (for example, 2,000 times in 2000) on Christmas Eve. The tolling starts at 11:00 p.m., stops during the church service from midnight to 12:45, and is then resumed until the years have been tolled away. The custom has been going on for almost 700 years, although there was an interruption in the early 19th century and again during World War II, when all bell-ringing was banned except to signal enemy invasion.
Although no one seems to remember exactly how the custom started, there is a legend that says Sir Thomas Soothill donated the tenor bell to the parish church as a penance for murdering a young boy servant and then trying to conceal his body. The bell has been called "Black Tom of Soothill" since the 13th century, and Tolling Black Tom is supposed to keep the parish safe from the Devil for another 12 months.
CONTACTS:
All Saints Minster Church
Rishworth Rd.
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire WF12 8DD United Kingdom
44-19-2445-7057; fax: 44-19-2443-9547
SOURCES:
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 198
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