A discovery for the ages - historians find Clock Tower bell in Bishop Auckland is six centuries older than first thought


Historians have made a new discovery about the inside of the Clock Tower at Auckland Castle.

Previously, it had been assumed the clock’s bell had been cast when the Tower was built in the mid-18th century - but experts now believe it may have been ringing out across Bishop Auckland for the best part of 1,000 years. 

The Clock Tower is currently halfway through a six-month conservation project aimed at restoring the Grade I structure to its former glory.

It was during the initial stages of the restoration work, that Durham University archaeologist Richard Annis noticed that the inscription on the bell appeared older than the clock or the Clock Tower itself. 

Inscription on bell Credit: The Auckland Project

An investigation by bell historian, George Dawson confirmed this, and found the bell to be what he called ‘a remarkable survivor’. 

While the Clock Tower dates back to around 1760 when Sir Thomas Robinson designed it for Bishop Richard Trevor, it is now thought the bell can be traced back to the late 12th century - between 1175 and 1200 – around the time Bishop du Puiset was beginning his Great Hall at Auckland Castle (now St Peter’s Chapel). 

Credit: The Auckland Project

The discovery means the bell predates not only the Clock Tower, but also the recently uncovered Bek’s Chapel – a long lost medieval chapel from the 14th century associated with Anthony Bek, who was Prince Bishop of Durham from 1284 to 1310. 

John Castling added: “The thought that this bell may have chimed out across Bishop Auckland across 10 different centuries is genuinely awe inspiring – and the conservation work we’re commissioning will ensure its ancient notes continue to ring out across the marketplace for many decades to come.” 

Credit: The Auckland Project