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The Curfew

A curfew is rung from the tower every evening, currently on the Sanctus bell. This practice dates from 1565 when a wealthy cloth merchant, John Beddoes, made its ringing a condition for the continuation of the Grammar School which he founded in the town in a small building on the edge of the graveyard. Beddoes provided for “one able person to ring the bell hanging in the steeple of the parish church of Presteigne every morning for ever between the feast of All Saints and the Purification of Our Lady, by the space of one half-hour, which should be called the Day Bell, and also should nightly for ever ring one other peal with the same bell at every eight of the clock, as well in summer as winter time , by the space of one half-hour, which should be called Curfew”. To pay for a ringer for the bell he left rent from a field known today as Bell Meadow.

Beddoes also stipulated that if the ringing of the bell be discontinued for “one whole year altogether” without reasonable cause or if the school did not function for “the space of three half-years together” without due cause, the endowment of the school was to revert to his heirs.

Within decades of its introduction the Day Bell was rung throughout the year; by the 19th century it was rung at 6:00am in the winter and 5:00am in the summer. Just before the First World War the Day Bell was discontinued and the duration of the Curfew was reduced to 5 minutes from 8:15pm.

The Curfew ceased during the Second World War but was ressurected in 1945 and has continued ever since. The current Curfew sounds at 7:20pm every evening for 5 minutes and Presteigne is one of the few places in the country where Curfew is rung nightly.

Years ago when wage levels were low the rent from Bell Meadow was more than enough to pay the ringer. In 1877 the Charity Commissioners fixed the wage payable from the endowment to £4 per year, making it impossible to raise the sum in the future. In 1952 the payment to the ringer was increased to £12 per annum, the additional funds being provided by the Welsh Church Fund. In the late 80’s the musician Mike Oldfield generously donated funds to enable the curfew bell to continue to ring.

Towards the very end of the 20th Century it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a rota of ringers prepared to climb the tower each evening to ring the curfew. To overcome this problem Mr Eddie Taylor and Mr Roy Stickling devised and constructed an electric motorised hammer, controlled by a time switch, which strikes the Sanctus bell each morning and evening for 2 minutes.

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Copyright St Andrew's Presteigne 2015