BellStanhope Town Crier’s Bell showing clapper
Source: D. Golightly

Bell
Stanhope Town Crier’s Bell
Source: D. Golightly

Crier
Stafford Town Crier, an example of a town crier in uniform. Source: Wikipedia. Copyright: Wikipedia

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Stanhope
Current Location: Private Collection
Theme: Social
Period: Post-medieval
Date: ?

What is it?
A brass bell with wooden handle.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Many towns still have town criers such as Masham in North Yorkshire. This bell is probably the only surviving one connected to the North Pennines area.

Why is it important?
The first recorded use of a town crier was somewhere around 1066 when William the Conqueror decreed that all large towns and cities should have a town crier.

On Sept 11th 1418 Bishop Langley ordained a weekly market to be held in Stanhope on a Friday and two annual fairs. ‘We order thee to see to make public proclamation in the bailiwick there and that the markets and fairs aforesaid be established at all speed.’ This could be when the first town crier was used in Stanhope.

The bell is an important part of the social history of Stanhope. Before mass communication, the town crier or bellman would have delivered news to the local townspeople by ringing his bell to attract their attention. He would cry out ‘Oyez, Oyez, Oyez’ which meant ‘Hear Ye’.  Many people would have been illiterate in the 18th and 19th centuries.  He would have stood in the market place and delivered public pronouncements or public announcements. As well as having a bell, the town crier had a uniform which consisted of a splendid 3 cornered hat and breeches and frock coat. These have sadly been lost. The bell is still used today to announce the last Sulky race at Stanhope Show. It is believed that the last town crier was Mr. Gibbon who lived down the path to Bond Isle.

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