The market bell returns

Bell, shopping Stratford upon Avon
Bell, shopping Stratford upon Avon

A 14th Century bell has been reinstated at Bell Court during a special ceremony attended by three, past and present, Mayors of Stratford-upon-Avon.

The ceremony re-created a similar unveiling which took place at the former Bell Court development 30 years ago. Both were attended by Dr Lees, now aged 91, who was Mayor of Stratford between 1978 and 1979 and again between 1988 and 1989, as well as musicians from Snitterfield Handbell Ringers, including Gwen Smith who is in her 90s.

The event was also attended by the current Mayor of Stratford, Cllr Victoria Alcock, and Juliet Short who was Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon in 2000 and helped ensure the safety of the bell.

Toby Saggers, Asset Manager, at UK & European Investments, the owners of Bell Court, said: “For many years, this historic bell has been linked to shopping in Stratford-upon-Avon. Between 1821 and 1920, it is believed to have hung in the timber framed Market Cross in Bridge Street where it sounded the start of trading to the people of the town. Since 1975, the bell has been housed at Bell Court and we’re extremely proud to welcome it back to its rightful home. It will now welcome all new visitors to Bell Court and will oversee the on-going changes as more new shops and restaurants open at Bell Court in the coming months.”

The bell is now hanging in the timber frame at the High Street entrance to Bell Court. Whilst much of its history is unknown, markings inside the bell show that it was cast in 1320 and its original purpose was likely to have been a church bell based on the inscription that reads ‘Audi Nos Christi’ which translates as Hear Us, Oh Christ. The same markings and inscriptions are found on the bells at Westminster Abbey.

A plaque was also unveiled at the ceremony has been installed at the entrance of Bell Court alongside the bell. Snitterfield Handbell Ringers marked the occasion with a musical salute to the bell.

Toby continued: “30 years ago Bell Court was a busy shopping centre that attracted many residents and visitors in Stratford-upon-Avon. After some years of decline, Bell Court is once again a thriving destination in the heart of the town, offering people a desirable place to shop, grab a drink or something to eat and enjoy a film. By recreating the bell unveiling that took place 30 years ago, we wanted to symbolise the life that has been brought back to Bell Court.”

Cllr Victoria Alcock, Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “It has been a pleasure to welcome this beautiful bell back to Stratford-upon-Avon. Today was a fitting ceremony to celebrate a piece of Stratford’s history. The bell has called Stratford its home for nearly 200 years and it’s wonderful to see it reinstated at Bell Court, becoming part of both the town’s history and future.”

A campaign is currently underway, led by Juliet Short, to make the bell chime once again.