The Pancake Bell

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AN ANCIENT BINGLEY TRADITION

Shrove Tuesday: the name comes from “shriving”, that is absolution, as given in the pre-Reformation church after confession. This was all part of the preparation for Lent which, of course, starts the next day. From at least the 16th century, however,  Shrove Tuesday had been seen as a holiday, especially for apprentices who, full of boisterous high spirits, were released from their duties, usually signalled by the ringing of a bell at 11 am. In York they had the right to enter the Minster to ring a bell for this very purpose and, it is said, to make sure it was rung as early as possible, a bribe to the Sexton wasn’t unknown! Hence this report of 1620 (not from Bingley I hasten to add!):

...by the time it strikes eleven which (by the helpe of a Knavish Sexton) is commonly before nine, then there is a bell rung cauld (sic) the Pancake Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted and forgetful of either manners or humanity.

I've heard it said that, in the year 1673, a riotous disturbance took place in the York Minster Yard, occasioned by the Dean and Chapter prohibiting the apprentice boys of York playing football in the Nave, a disorderly custom which had been practised on Shrove Tuesday for many years.
Later still, a bell rung at 11am on Shrove Tuesday morning was said to be a signal to make Pancakes and so use up perishable foods before the onset of Lent. The tradition of a “Pancake Bell” still survives in a number of English churches and, due to the dedication of a succession of ringers over the years, Bingley is still one of them! Usually a job given to young recruits, in or about 1950 Dorothy Winup took over this duty. Dorothy really made the Pancake Bell her own, properly ringing up the 7th bell (the best sounding in her opinion) at 11am for 5 minutes for an almost unbroken record of Shrove Tuesdays until 1997. At least three times the press got involved and made a story of the event. The first of these occasions found Dorothy new to ringing. The photographer had asked her to hold her arms such that her face could be seen. This caused much adverse comment from fellow ringers at the time as they said it showed a bad ringing style. Although she had a copy of this photo she was interested to learn that I had spotted a copy of the full article, text and all, firmly pasted to the ringing chamber door at Bradford Cathedral. I didn’t make myself popular with the tower captain when I jokingly suggested I might borrow the door to take to the photocopy shop. On another bizarre occasion she was asked to ring and toss a pancake at the same time! This was clearly impossible but the verger kindly made a “doormat” pancake and attempted to toss it whilst Dorothy rang. This turned out to be hilarious as the filthy pancake spent most of its time on floor.

The tradition has survived at Bingley right up to the present day. The bell is still rung at 11am each year but it's sad that Shrove Tuesday is no longer a holiday and so no revelries, not even a pancake race, have been associated with it in Bingley since ancient times.

Text taken from "Yorkshire Tails", the history of Bingley Bells & Ringers.

On 4/2/15 The Pancake Bell was rung 75 times (once for each year of his life) immediately prior to the funeral of David Appleton who had kept this tradition going for many years.


History
Webpage icon "Yorkshire Tails" a history of our bells and ringers
Webpage icon All Saints' Organ
Webpage icon Memorial Stones transcript
Webpage icon The Burne-Jones Window
Webpage icon The Church Clock