Ancient church bell rings out in Clitheroe again after restoration

RINGING OUT: Mgr Corcoran is pictured in front of the presbytery's belfry containing the ancient bell. (s)
RINGING OUT: Mgr Corcoran is pictured in front of the presbytery's belfry containing the ancient bell. (s)

AN ancient church bell is ringing out for the first time in more than 60 years after being restored to its former glory.

The bell at St Michael and St John’s RC Church on Lowergate, Clitheroe, was restored by Loughborough-based specialist bell maker Taylors, who believe it to be one of the 24 oldest in the country and probably the oldest one in the Catholic church.

HISTORIC MARKING: This is the founder's badge of George Heathcote, of Chesterfield, which is engraved on the bell, and who cast bells between the years of 1525 and 1558. (s)

HISTORIC MARKING: This is the founder's badge of George Heathcote, of Chesterfield, which is engraved on the bell, and who cast bells between the years of 1525 and 1558. (s)

Parish priest Monsignor John Corcoran said it is amazing to have the bell working once again and that the sound had already evoked memories from parishioners.

“Many of the older parishioners think it is wonderful when they hear it chime,” he said.

A survey of church bells in the Salford Diocese discovered that the bell dates back to the 16th Century. The founder’s badge engraved on the bell is that of George Heathcote, of Chesterfield, who cast bells between the years of 1525 and 1558. Records show that this was the largest he made.

Further investigation revealed that the bell was originally cast for Youlgreave Parish Church of All Saints in Derbyshire.

It is believed to have been hung there as the largest bell until 1870 when it was then sent to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for recasting. However it survived the melting pot and it was later sent on to Clitheroe.

Weighing well over half-a-ton, the bell, which has a diameter of 1,025mm, had to be restored in situ. No longer swung, it has been adapted for stationary chiming by an electro magnetic clapper.

“We ring it 15 minutes before services, 8-45 every morning, 5-45 p.m. on a Saturday and 9-15 a.m. on Sunday.

“It is also rung for weddings and tolled for funerals,” explained Mgr Corcoran, who added that during the Second World War bells were only to be sounded in the event of invasion and after the war, damage, possibly caused by its lack of use during the war, prevented the bell from working.

The bell also tolls three times a day at 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. when the ancient Catholic prayer The Angelus is said.

As a pre-reformation bell, the next stage in researching the bell’s history is to search the national registers to find out more information about its origins.