The Curfew Bell

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In 1691 the ironmaster Ambrose Crowley leased four acres and a disused mill at Winlaton Mill. A map of 1712 list two squares at Winlaton Mill, Old Square and New Square. The Victoria County history of 1909 states “The bell dated 1799 recalls the fact that from 1691-1860 the Winlaton Mill curfew bell was rung each evening “.

At Winlaton Mill the time keeper was called the warden of the Mill and in the 18th century an experienced worker earned 14s 2d (71p) for 80 hours work. Building instructions in 1700 say windows must be so high from the ground that no person or workman could easily see out of them. No slacking or day dreaming for Crowley’s men.

The workshops and homes were in a square and the warden rung the bell at 5.00am to get up for breakfast, lunch and at the end of the day. Workers had a strictly regulated day and their squares were locked each evening at curfew which was 9.00pm. Christopher Hamilton discovered through his own research that the bronze curfew bell which had been kept at Winlaton Cottage Forge for many years, is in fact the Winlaton Mill bell and is engraved with the date 1799. It was used as the curfew bell until 1860, then it was used as the works bell at the Delta works at Derwenthaugh until 1915. Following the reminiscences of a retired worker aged 94 the bell was found in a storage cupboard and was moved to Winlaton in 1979. In 2006 the bell was moved to Winlaton Mill Village Hall, and in 2018 moved again to the Land of Oak and Iron Shrub café on the main road where it is on display.