Old Town Hall Bell To Sound Tonight
6:33am 7th August 2014
A rare piece of Weymouth's history will be put back into place tonight.
The original bell from the old town hall which dates back to 1633 has been re-hung.
It will strike for the first time in more than 30 years tonight at 9 o'clock and will continue then to strike every hour.
The ceremony will be in the form of the Mayor ringing the bell once for the thousand years, then 6 more rings by other people for the six hundred years, then 3 for the thirty years and another three for the three years so "spelling out" 1633 the year the bell was cast. The Old Town Hall is set up for Heritage and the Arts and is a Community Incorporated Company with a 30 year lease in 2009 from Weymouth & Portland Borough Council to restore the Old Town Hall.
Steve Booth is one of the Directors of the old town, he says local band The Dolmen have written a fundraising song about all the history the bell would have seen;
"It's telling the story of the Crabchurch Conspiracy, what it would have seen in the Civil War, the smugglers. Its putting the heart and soul back into the town hall, and thanks to all the work of the volunteers, we hope to see everyone down there tonight."
So how is the bell going to sound?
Steve says they already know;
"We know it's in E - as we've done some tests and it sounds really sweet. With help from a local businessman, Grahame Knott from the shipwreck project we've been able to get this bell back up."
The bell was cast by Richard Purdue in 1633, probably at Stokeford over the border in Somerset and may have been first used in nearby Radipole Church before it was placed in the Tudor based Weymouth Town Hall. By the mid 1970s it was just sat redundant on the floor of the bell tower with a chain around its canons to secure it.
In 1645 there was a major battle outside the Town Hall at the West Gate of Weymouth in the old High Street when Royalists attacked the barricade set up by the Parliamentarians who had retaken Weymouth as well as the rival port of Melcombe Regis. The barricade was overrun as designed and the onrushing Royalists ran down the High Street to be met with a fusillade from musketeers stationed in the houses on either side and from cannons at the far end of the street. About 200 died that night followed by another 250 Royalists being pushed back to the fort on the Nothe when they were cut off. They couldn't get around the cove (now Hope Square, where there are cannonball and hailshot marks in one of the buildings) in the quayside and were either shot or put to the sword or drowned trying to cross the swampy waters.
Every year in February, the Crabchurch Conspiracy, as it is known, is commemorated, starting at the Old Town Hall. The Royalists had intended to take the twin ports of Weymouth & Melcombe Regis for King Charles I, so he could bring his French Army supporters into England. There will be lots of re-enactors dressed in Civil War period dress and also some pirates as Weymouth, with Southampton was one of the two foremost privateering ports in the late 1580s featuring privateer John Bond, whose motto, The World Is Not Enough" was used in Fleming's books.