Dewsbury Tolling the Devil’s Knell

Where: Dewsbury, Yorkshire at the Minster Church of All Saints
When: 24th December
Time: 10.30pm - midnight (ringing) & service 11.15-12.45




Many churches ring in Christmas Day with a peal of their bells, but at Dewsbury they do things differently. Starting at around 10.30 pm, the bell-ringers toll the tenor bell once for every year since Christ was born – it takes a while to get through this and is timed so that the last stroke is rung at exactly midnight. The ringers take it in turns to perform 100 strokes and a cunning electronic device keeps score just in case they lose count. A local legend explains that Black Tom de Soothill, the landowner hereabouts, presented the church bell as penance for murdering a servant but this doesn’t explain why the bell is rung on Christmas Eve. Alternative theories suggest it’s rung as a passing-bell because the Devil died when Jesus was born. Whatever the origin, this is a unique custom which must be tricky to perform correctly and which gets a little more difficult every year. A special service takes place in the church whilst the ringing is happening, then when the peals are complete the bellringers leave the ringing chamber and join the ¬†congregation for the end of the service.

Helpful Hints

The service begins at 11.15 pm and ends at around 12.45. Well-known carols are sung, and there is communion. All can be assured of a warm welcome.

Click here for the church website :

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