Wednesday 30 December 2009

Deptford's silent new year (1)

On New Year's Eve, 1836, church bells sounded across London to ring in the new year. There was one patch of silence, though - the parish of St Nicholas, Deptford. Mr Godwin the churchwarden had taken the bell ropes and locked them away in his own house.

The bells themselves were apparently moved to write a petition against their harsh treatment:

to the Worthy and Respectable Inhabitants of the said Parish.
Most Humbly sheweth,

That your Petitioners emboldened by the long course of reciprocal services, which has for Centuries existed between you and themselves, presume to lay before you their Grievances and solicit your kind interference in their behalf, of our Faithful attachment to your Interests, and Sympathy with your feelings, you will not doubt, we have Mourned when you have Mourned, and Rejoiced when you Rejoiced, which of you can forget that blissful period of life, when at the Altar below us you obtained possession of all you held dear, did we not on that occasion pour forth our Melodious Strains upon the surrounding Air, and inspire all Hearts with Happiness and Joy; when the rude hand of Death has snatched from you some much-loved Relative or Friend, can you forget the thrilling sensations you experienced as each slow and solemn expression of our Sympathy fell upon your ear, - how oft has been the time when British Valour and Intrepidity has humbled the proud Foes of our Country, have we mingled in your rejoicings, and announced in Loud and Harmonious Strains the feelings of Joy and Gratitude with which you hailed the Brave defenders of the British Isle; - to you then we look with confidence to pity and redress our Grievances, condemned by the inflated assumption of Parochial dignity, armed with a little brief Authority, we are doomed at this period of annual rejoicing to a base and inglorious silence, what, we ask, must have been your own feelings when the last stroke of the Midnight hour announced the expiring period of 1836, and ushered into life the dawn of 1837, when our harmonious brethren in the adjoining Parishes threw forth their merry and enlivening Peals to the passing Gale, and not one note from your old and venerable servants hoarse with the rust of Ages, broke upon the silence of the night alas, our ruthless oppressor has deprived us of our very Ropes, save, Oh save we implore you those graceful appendages which formed the line of communication between us and our Harmonic Friends, the Trinity Youths save them from the Degrading contamination of falling into the hands of any DEALER IN OLD JUNK, rescue us we beseech you from our present state of inglorious inaction, and once more we will enliven your Fire-sides with our merry peals;

In Grateful strains our voice we’ll raise

And sound to our Deliverers’ Praise,

Nay we will do more, as the period is fast approaching when your Oppressor must sink into his original sphere and his brief Authority expire, we pledge ourselves for your gratification on that occasion to perform a Solemn Requium [sic] in Memory of departed Greatness, - Grant worthy Parishioners, our request.

And your Petitioners will ever Pray.

Given from our

Soundless, Ropeless,
Silent Tower of
St. Nicholas,

2nd January, 1837. (PRICE 1d.)
Their plea, albeit written in a single sentence, soon received a response...

1 comment:

Marmoset said...

Having been rahnd 'n' abaht for 40 odd-years, I miss the foghorns at midnight, New Year's Eve. All the Thames boats would welcome in the new year. As a teenager I wondered why on earth anyone would want to be on a boat at night on the Thames when the hour arrived. Now that I understand, they don't do it!