The Curfew

Although many towns rang a curfew in the Middle Ages and beyond, Grantham's was rung in a unique way

The curfew originated in Normandy and was instituted in England partially through William the Conqueror. The sounding of the curfew bell was the order to everyone to extinguish their fires and candles thus reducing the risk of the outbreak of fire in homes built of combustible material - hence the name 'couvre feu', meaning 'cover fire.' It was usually rung at 8pm.

The ringing of the Curfew was for a long time the signal for all Public Houses and Ale Houses to close. In towns it was often rung at 9pm instead of 8pm, thus allowing taverns to remain open an hour longer.

Later on, the Curfew took on a religious significance. Catholics would say an 'Ave' before retiring to bed, on hearing the Curfew bell.

At St Wulfram's Grantham the Curfew was rung right up to the war years when all bells had to be silent. It was rung each night at 8pm with the exception of the Eve or Vigil of a Holy Day or Saint's Day. The reason for this was it has always been considered that a Saint's Day extended from the afternoon to dusk the following evening, thus giving two Evensongs to each Holy Day. For the Curfew to break into this was thought improper.

At Grantham, the Curfew was rung in a unique way. In other places the curfew was rung on the first bell - the smallest - giving the number of strokes of the month of the year and then went on to the second bell to strike the day of the month. At Grantham the third bell was rung continually throughout the striking of the Quarter and Hour of the clock, and after the clock had finished striking the day of the month was chimed on the eighth bell.

The custom of ringing the Curfew at 8pm was revived for the duration of the Festival of Costumes and Crafts which took place between 2nd and 5th July 1976. The Curfew was rung by the Verger, Robin Olive.

(Information taken from a leaflet produced at the time of the Costumes and Crafts Festival, author unknown, 1976)