History Articles - For Whom The Bell Tolls

For six years I wrote a short history article in the monthly parish magazine, The Pelican.  One of the articles is shown in the column opposite.

Articles can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate title from the index below.

If anyone has any old photographs or parish information which they would like recorded (for present and future generations to share) then please get in touch with me.

    John Davison (Website Co-ordinator)
           Telephone: 01670 760609
      Email: jdavison26@btinternet.com

63   Dec 2011 We'll Weather the Weather
62   Nov 2011 Alan's Ackl'n Appearances
61   Oct 2011 Ackl'n Marriages 1913-14
60   Sep 2011 Old Photographs Required
59   Jul 2011 A Tower With A Tale To Tell
58   Jun 2011 A Well Kept Secret
57   May 2011 Fishy Business
56   Apr 2011 Acklington Warrior Stone
55   Mar 2011 The Church of St John
54   Feb 2011 Deep and Chrisp
53   Dec 2010 For Whom The Bell Tolls
52   Nov 2010 Which Village?
51   Oct 2010 A Pilot's Memories
50   Sep 2010 Acklington Black Poplar
49   Jul 2010 Street Names
48   Jun 2010 RAF Memorial
47   May 2010 Crowning Glory
46   Apr 2010 Badminton Club
45   Mar 2010 Murder On The Train
44   Feb 2010 Guyzance Tragedy
43   Dec 2009 Acklington Park
42   Nov 2009 Dye House (Part 2)
41   Sep 2009 Dye House (Part 1)
40   Jul 2009 History Making Heads
39   Jun 2009 Acklington Main Street
38   May 2009 James Raymond Smith
37   Apr 2009 The Age of Steam Trains
36   Mar 2009 Fred Wilson
35   Feb 2009 Guyzance School
34   Dec 2008 Acklington W.I.
33   Nov 2008 Lych Gate
32   Oct 2008 Village Hall Disaster
31   Sep 2008 Summer Crowds
30   Jul 2008 Spot The Differences
29   Jun 2008 Sunday School
28   May 2008 National Finalist
27   Apr 2008 What's in A Name
26   Mar 2008 Railway Inn
25   Feb 2008 Osprey
24   Dec 2007 The Guyzance 10
23   Nov 2007 Bowls Club
22   Oct 2007 Village Harvest
21   Sep 2007 Wedding Bliss
20   Jun 2007 The Other Acklington Artist
19   May 2007 The La'Well Tree
18   Apr 2007 The German Spy
17   Mar 2007 The Winter of 47
16   Feb 2007 Les Birkett's Memories
15   Jan 2007 Railway Station
14   Dec 2006 Jane Chapman
13   Nov 2006 Witches
12   Oct 2006 Jack Taylor
11   Sep 2006 Black Ralph
10   Aug 2006 School Photographs
09   Jul 2006 Pig Killings
08   Jun 2006 Village Hall Disaster
07   May 2006 Cricketers
06   Apr 2006 On Yer Bike
05   Apr 2006 Cricket
04   Mar 2006 Mailbag Robbery
03   Feb 2006 Storm of 1886
02   Jan 2006 Football
01   Dec 2005 Help Required

An ancient bell was once again heard in Acklington Parish after a period of over 800 years. It happened on 30th October 2010 at the Halloween History Talk organised by Acklington Community Team. The ancient relic, which is normally under lock and key at Acklington Parish Church, is the sanctus bell from St Wilfred’s medieval priory which once stood proudly on the bank of the river Coquet near Brainshaugh. Part of the chapel remains as a ruin and can be seen poking up above a much more recent wall built by a former landowner to protect this historic structure and the burial ground within. As for the rest of the priory buildings, buried foundations are all that is left.

We know that in 1147 this Norman priory was founded and dedicated to St Wilfred of Guysnes and the nearby village adopted the name “Guysnes” which later became “Guyson” then changed over the years to “Guyzance”. We also know that an order of nuns occupied the priory until their numbers were decimated by the Great Plague in 1349. Sadly the priory never really recovered from this traumatic period and the place gradually deteriorated into a ruined state.

The plague in question was one of the most deadly pandemics in human history and became known as the Black Death. Symptoms included horrible swellings on the body (deep red, turning to black), particularly in the groin, the neck and armpits, which oozed pus and bled when opened. This was followed by acute fever, vomiting of blood and infected lungs. Most of the plague victims had great difficulty breathing and died a very painful death within two to seven days after infection. It was without doubt a most terrifying time for people living in the area and the history books tell us “nine out of ten bondage holdings in Acklington and Guyzance were laid waste by the Black Death.”

One of the worst aspects of the disease to the medieval Christian mind was that people died without last rites and without having a chance to confess their sins. If they could, many local folk would visit the priory and look to the nuns for help before finally meeting their maker. The sanctus bell from the priory would be rung by one of the nuns when a plague victim died. The sound would echo through the valley informing all the remaining parishioners that the Black Death had, once again, robbed the community of a member!
Very few relics from St Wilfred’s Priory remain. The sanctus bell, together with a stone mortar bowl used in the preparation of food, was presented to St John’s Church by the Tate family of Bank House who once owned the land on which the priory stands.
It was a very poignant moment, then, when the bell once again sounded during the recent history talk. The ringing was accompanied by the chanting of a Latin prayer and it all helped to make it an evocative, informative and memorable evening. We think we live in difficult times, but they are surely nothing compared to what some of our ancestors had to endure.


         John Davison   01670 76069