Dewsbury Minster bells to toll 2,015 times to remember murder 800 years ago

Dewsbury Minster
Dewsbury Minster

Have you ever wondered why the bells of Dewsbury Minster ring for so long on Christmas Eve night?

The answer lies in a tragic story of murder and repentance 800 years ago.

The bells will toll 2,015 times on Christmas Eve this week, starting at 10.30pm and carrying on until midnight thanks to the hard work of the Minster Bell Ringers, who are honouring a medieval tradition known as the Devil's Knell.

In 1434, a local knight, Thomas de Soothill, flew into a rage after hearing his servant boy had failed to attend church. He threw the child into a mill pond, where he drowned. The murderer was overcome by remorse, and as an act of penance, paid for a tenor bell named Black Tom to be donated to the parish church in Dewsbury. He requested that to atone for his sins, it should be rung each Christmas Eve, with one toll for each of the years that had passed since the birth of Christ. The peals signify the forgiveness of all sins.

The inscription on the bell reads 'I shall be there, if treated just, when they are smouldering in the dust.'

The Minster will be open for Holy Communion during the ringing of the Devil's Knell, from 11.15pm.