The Cathedral Bells

There were three bells in the cathedral church of St. Ennodius and St. Veronica during the reign of Henry the Eighth but their weight and inscriptions are unknown. An ancient manuscript in the Chained Library records how Bishop Tosspot (Toby Codpiecium 1519-1530) ordered their removal since the ringing kept him awake on Sunday mornings. It is known that the bells were indeed taken down, but what happened to them is lost in the mists of the Wen valley. A new set of three were commissioned by Tosspot's successor, Bishop Overweight (Alfred Codpiecium 1530-1539). In 1605, Bishop Wearside, on being cleared of implication in the Gunpowder Plot, commissioned a new bell to mark the saving of Parliament. Bishop Thrust paid for a pair of bells in 1688, and the un-tuned ring of the bells was converted into a peal of six at a cost of 5,000 groats.

In 1792 David Vascular & Sons of Watercloset Lane, Smithfield, cast "Big Tom" which, with its deep tone, was used only on ceremonial occasions, such as the "Stoat Fayre". Two more were added in 1805 to mark the victory at Trafalgar, bringing the total to nine, a figure marked by the name of the nearby public house, "The Nine Bells" in Privy Street.

Apart from standard requirements, the bells have, through the ages, been used for some unusual announcements.

  • The "Soulcake" Bell, for instance, signalled the passing of a soul from this life to the next and could be rung at all hours of the day or night. This would be done by the "Passing Virger", a position usually occupied by a celibate man upwards of 85 years.


  • The "Genuflection" Bell was rung three times at the blessing of the bread, three times after the blessing of the wine, and three more as the priests left the sanctuary during the Office of the Mass.


  • The "Warden" Bell, referred to as the "Lights out" bell, was generally rung at 10.00 p.m., though in the early 1900's, when the then Close Constable was "in his cups", it could be as early as 7.00 p.m. This was the cause of no little strife between residents of the Close and the cathedral authorities at the time.


  • The "Wakey-Wake" Bell was rung as early as possible as far back as 1549 and was used as a call to the morning privy.


  • The "Pancake" bell was sounded at midday on Shrove Tuesday to call people to confession and to warn housewives to use up all of the goose grease, lard and beef dripping before the abstinence of meat throughout the Lenten season. On returning from confession the womenfolk of the city would engage in the cooking of hundreds of pancakes which were then brought to the Market square at 5.00 p.m. Here the people would feast on the pancakes, served with a variety of traditional Wenchostershire toppings - pickled eggs and syrup, lemon juice and salt, herring and anchovy paste, and the most popular, cucumber and banana cream. The "Pancake" bell would ring again at 7.00 p.m. to signal the end of the meal, and for several hours afterwards the narrow streets would be filled with the sounds and scents of digestive juices. For weeks beforehand people would pray in the Mandylion chapel for a strong wind to blow that night.

Bell Ringing Memorial

Wenchoster Cathedral is proud to possess the monument to Robert (Plain Bob) Oakhandle, the only one-legged, blind ringer to ever to have participated in a full peal (pictured above with the Dean and Ringing team of 1899). This feat was achieved in 1898 and has yet to be equalled. The annual Ringers Guild service is held next to his memorial on the anniversary of his death, (May 29th).


Details of the Bells

The following is the full list of the inscriptions on the nine bells.

I. MANDYLION ADORAMUS QUOD UBIQUE QUOD SEMPER QUOD AB OMNIBUS (We worship the Mandylion, what everywhere, what always, what by all [has been believed]) Thropping+ L Grope. J Fumble Churchwardens Edwd. Passidew Fecit 1532.

II. ENNODIUS SACRA MAXIMA DEBETUR PUERO REVERENTIA (Holy Ennodius, the greatest reverence is due to the boy) Thropping+ L Grope. J Fumble Churchwardens Edwd. Passidew Fecit 1532.

III. VERA ICON DA DEXTRUM MISERO (True image, give the right hand to the unhappy) Thropping+ L Grope. J Fumble Churchwardens Edwd. Passidew Fecit 1532.

IV. PARLIAMENTA PER VARIOS CASUS PER TOT DISCRIMINA RERUM (Parliament, through various chances, through so many crises of fortune) Wearside+ K Largearse Esq. Mayor. P Grinding. A Nadger. Churchwardens John Opalong Fecit 1605.

V. THRUST+ PRIMA RES IPSA LOQUITUR (The first of Thrust+, the thing speaks for itself) Thrust Codpiecium+ L Openshaw. K Bumsfelt. Churchwardens. Jas. Opalong Fecit 1688.

VI. THRUST+ SECUNDUS TOTUS TERES ATQUE ROTUNDUS (Thrust+ the second, complete, smooth and round) Thrust Codpiecium+ L Openshaw. K Buttock. Churchwardens. Jas. Opalong Fecit 1688.

VII. ("Big Tom") GROSSE TETE ET PEU DE SENS (Big head and little wit) Blue Tulip. Fred. Hyslop. Jacques Pigpenne. Churchwardens. David Vascular & Sons Fecit 1792.

VIII. PRAISE GOD FOR BLESSED NELSON, ADMIRABLE ADMIRAL Horace Wilting Esq. Mayor. Clarence Ushant City Beadle. John Posset & Abel Gorge Bellfounders Exeter Late of Lichfield, Flixton Suffolk and St. Asaph Wales. (Successors to the old and impious Founders Wiggle, Butts & Ware of Cambridge. Names of high repute dating as early as 1592.)

IX. CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM (I believe it because it is absurd) Rev. Frederick Francis Futtock, Dean. Henry Jones Jones. Jacob Bretheren Church Wardens. In thanksgiving for the death of Nelson at Trafalgar. OCTOBER 5TH 1805


The bell ringing team of 1953 after their marathon 24-hour peal to celebrate the coronation.  In the front row, holding the ropes, are John Thomas and his cousin, Hilda Boobies.  They went on to form a theatrical act called "The Swinging Dollies" which involved acrobatics on ropes whilst using hand-bells to play "Greensleeves".  In the back row, holding the sick bag (used) is Reginald Thinn who played a major part in the Pancake Bell scandal of 1957.  The hooded-figure at the back right of the picture is Brother D'Eath OHHSV of whom little is known.  None of the members of this team could ever remember him being invited to attend.

Wenchoster Ringers

Bell ringing practice takes place in the Ringing Chamber every Wednesday evening, 7.00 - 9.00 p.m. after which everybody retires to the snug at the Nine Bells.  Learners and visiting ringers welcome. All enquiries to: William (Bill) Shipshape - Captain of the Tower. Chimes Cottage. Oblong Place. Wenchoster Parva. WN2 8CC. (01540 331997)

Please note that under new UK regulations an Enhanced Personal Data Disclosure is required from all ringers.  Ringers will also be randomly tested for banned substances, e.g. liquorice laces. aniseed balls, American Hard Gums, and Dolly Mixtures.


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