The Devil’s Knell

Black Tom, the name of the tenor bell hung in Dewsbury Minster, is rung every Christmas Eve in a tradition known as the Devil's Knell dating back to 1434.

A local knight, Thomas de Soothill, is  reputed to have fallen into a rage on hearing that a servant boy had failed to attend church that week. 

He grabbed the boy and hurled him into the mill pond where the boy drowned.

photo of Black Tom the tenor bell in Dewsbury Minster

Black Tom, the 13 cwt tenor bell hanging in Dewsbury Minster

Stricken with remorse for his actions and as an act of penance, de Soothill paid for a new 13 cwt tenor bell for the parish church, now Dewsbury Minster, and asked for two things.

That the bell be rung on Christmas Eve with one toll for each year of the Christian era to proclaim the defeat of evil and the forgiveness of all sins not just his own.

So it would have started with 1434 tolls at the time and is now at 2017 - taking some 90 minutes to complete the tradition and ending precisely at midnight on Christmas Eve.

de Soothill also that it be tolled at his funeral as people prayed for his soul.  

The bell is currently inscribed: 'I shall be here if treated just when they are mouldering in the dust'.  No doubt, the knight's plea to the local people to maintain the tradition in order to save his soul.

de Soothill was known locally as Black Tom and the bell he donated to his local church inherited this nickname.  The original bell was recast in 1820 and then again in 1875.  Black Tom de Soothill would no doubt be pleased to know that the bell tower team of Dewsbury Minster continue to protect his soul to this day.

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