The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall has accumulated many treasures over the centuries: art, artefacts, architecture and the stories of those who have passed through it’s walls. This blog series seeks to shine a spotlight on some of the Hall’s incredible collections.
In honour of the occasion, we start with this Hall Highlight – the Pancake Bell; a reminder of an old Shrove Tuesday Tradition.
The bell originally came from the Medieval Church of St Cruz (meaning “Holy Cross”) at the junction of the Shambles and Pavement. The Church of St Crux was demolished in 1887 and on its site stands St Crux Hall. For many years the bell has been situated in the Undercroft of the Hall.
By tradition at noon on Shrove Tuesday this bell was rung to signify that the city’s servants and apprentices were free for the rest of the day. They would received an extra shilling (five pence in today’s money) in their pay packets, and would be free to take part in pancake-related fun and games in the afternoon. Such bells are also known as “Shriving Bells”; “Shrove” is the past tense of “shrive”, meaning to make or hear confessions.
In Masham, Whitby and many other North Yorkshire villages a pancake bell was also rung and the tradition is still going strong in Scarborough to this day. In the town of Olney, their annual pancake race begins when the Pancake Bell is rung, and the winner is whoever first serves the ringer their pancake.