The New Bell Wake

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The (Norton) New Bell Wake (Roud 10535[1]) is a song associated with Saint Nicolas' Church, Kings Norton where the words are said to have been found in the church tower and refer to the hanging of the bells in 1783 by Robert Turner.

From 1763 until 1783 the brothers Robert and Samuel Turner hung most of the major rings cast at Whitechapel. as well as working with other founders and on independent jobs. In 1783 Robert Turner hung the new bells at Kings Norton, Worcestershire, and after that nothing further is known of his work.[2]

The song was recorded by Roy Bailey on his 2013 "New Bell Wake" album. The tune seems also to be used as a morris tune.

When Norton raised at last, my friends,
Their new bells in the steeple,
The ringers tried to make amends
By rousing up the people,
One morn, you know, before cock-crow,
They suddenly got ringing, and for to make a new bell wake
Set all the bells a-swinging.

They banged each bell
And rang so well
So true their parts did take,
That from morn till night
Was loud delight
At Norton new bell wake.

Such ringing ne’er was known before:
They fairly shook the spire.
They kicked up one continuous roar,
Twas slam round, change and fire.
The guns did shoot and folks did hoot
On hearing such a clatter.
They ran about to see the rout
And learn what was the matter.


The beadle led, Sam Parsonage made
The second bell to sing.
Then wrencher Jim the third pulled in,
The fourth did Collins ring.
Dipple fifth, and Atkins Ben
Chimed in the sixth so merry.
Tom Mason was seventh. The tenor bell
Was rattled in by Jerry.


They drank, too, at a furious rate
And nearly spent their store.
Two pence was all left in the plate
And they could raise no more.
The warden coming just in time
Behaved them fair and well.
They gave a shout when he turned out
Two shillings for each bell.


At length that night and what a sight
Was then on Norton Green
And what a squall at Osborn’s stall
When they fired her magazine.
The crackers flew and serpents, too,
Made all the neighbourhood quake.
Folks thought the devil, as seemed but civil,
Had come to the new bell wake.


It was crack and fizz
And smack and whizz
The cakes again did bake.
The powder stunk
And most were drunk
To end the new bell wake.

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