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16 October 2014
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Churchill Bell

Stolen nearly 80 years ago, this bronze farmyard bell was recovered from under a tree. Still in fairly good condition, it's hoped it will go on display in Peatlands Park

Churchill bell. Photo courtesy of Tyrone Courier.

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Churchill Bell comes home
(Article written April 2004)

Once it rang out over the Churchill Estate and surrounding countryside of Tamnamore. Then the bell disappeared in 1927 and there has been much debate ever since as to what might have become of it. Two local men were determined to track it down and spent many hours searching the local area. A month or so ago they struck gold - or should I say bronze - and the bell was at last uncovered. Now it is hoped that, after some restoration work, the Churchill Bell will go on display at Peatlands Park, near Dungannon.

Churchill Estate

In the late 18th century Mr Thomas Verner, a descendant from an early plantation family who had settled in Ulster in the early 17th century, bought about 4,000 acres from Lord Charlemont in the northern part of Co Armagh. He established a landed estate and built a house at the centre of his lands at Churchill in the townland of Mullenakille, close by to what is now known as Vernors Inn. He also set up a farming business. Thomas was successful and passed on to his great grand nephew William a thriving rural gentleman's enterprise known as Churchill House and Estate. Unfortunately, the estate did not fare so well under successive generations and finally in 1927 things came to an end.

Churchill Bell

The bell hung in the farmyard of the Churchill Estate for about 150 years and was rung to mark the different stages of the working day. It would have been heard at starting time, to notify meal breaks and to let the estate workers know when they could down tools. The sound of the bell carried out not only over the estate, but the surrounding countryside as well and people on local farms got used to setting their time by it. In 1927 when the estate's effects were being sold up, word got round that a local Roman Catholic church was interested in purchasing the bell. Some people didn't like this idea and on the night before the estate's clearance auction the bell disappeared from the sale yard - never to be seen again! At least not until this year.

Detectives on the case

Tommy Glenny (a local historian) and Robert Greenaway (an amateur metal detector enthusiast from Derrylee) set about locating the bell. Over the years little bits of information had slipped out about the whereabouts of the bell and who had taken it. Armed with this knowledge, such as it was, they poured over maps and drew conclusions as to what route the perpetrators might have taken. Then it was a case of donning their walking boots and searching out on the ground. Many hours were spent following false trails and many other interesting items were dug up in their search for the bell!

James Walsh, a licensed historical archaeologist, then joined the search team and a month or so ago at last their metal detector picked up a strong reading close to a huge tree. As they dug the first thing they came across was the ironwork that the bell would have hung from. Their excitement increased as gradually the rim of the bell appeared. When the bell had finally been removed from its earthy tomb, it was clear that it was in remarkably good condition considering its resting place for so many years. The bronze body of the bell had been well preserved. However, the ironwork was badly eroded and the clanger was missing - so some restoration work was required.

Bell finders Tommy Glenny, James Walsh and Robert Greenaway.  Photo courtesy of Tyrone Courier.
Bell finders Tommy Glenny, James Walsh and Robert Greenaway
with the Churchill bell
(courtesy of Tyrone Courier)

The Future

With the bell recovered, the next question was what to do with it. Peatlands Park is sited on what was once part of the old Churchill Estate. The park is opening a new Educational and Visitors' Centre later this year and it is hoped that the bell will go on permanent display there. It seems a fitting home for this famous local artefact. In a sense, the Churchill Bell will be returning home.

Listen - Tommy Glenny and Robert Greenaway show off their find to Mary Ferris and take her to the spot where they uncovered the bell.
           (broadcast on Your Place & Mine 03.04.04)

Do you remember hearing stories about the disappearance of the bell? Do you know anything about the Churchill Estate? Share your stories and comments here at Your Place & Mine by filling in the form at the bottom of the page.

 

YOUR RESPONSES

Robert Michael P. Berioso - July '08
Hi guys,im ROBERT MICHAEL P. BERIOSO,son of ROBERT GREENAWAY and ROSALINDA P. BERIOSO, I'm 37 yearsold now I use my mom family name because I'm illigetimate child. I'm here in Philippines, I need to find my father name ROBERT GREENAWAY thats my Mama said that he knows about me. Please help who ever read this massage,I JUST TRY MAYBE THIS ROBERT GREENAWAY IS MY FATHER. I hope that you dont ignore this message.,thank you godbless you all.

ROBERT MICHAEL P. BERIOSO

Rupert Irving - July '08
My name is Rupert Irving and I am the great-nephew of Sir Edward Derrick Wingfield Verner (6th Baronet; 1907-1975) and his eldest surviving male relative.

I am undertaking some research on my Wingfield Verner family history and would be very interested in hearing from anyone with information and/or who may be connected to the family.

My great aunt Ruth, sister to Edward Derrick, wrote a book on the family and published this privately in a limited edition format. I would very much like to have a copy.

Derrylee Resident - July '08
I think that it will be found that this bell wasn't indeed 'stolen' but retrieved away from the RC Church in Maghery who had indeed stolen the gates from the Estate previously. The bell was redeemed in this instance due to the irony that the Church wanted something from an estate that they helped insurrect violence towards in the 1800's. However, in the interests of todays Northern Irelands appeasement and overzealous political correctness, the truth (yet again) has been overlooked, and a middle of the road stance taken once again.

Liam Glenny - Jan '07
Hello, my name is liam Glenny from county Clare. I was just wondering if Tommy Glenny Had Info on the Glenny Name???

Lauren Verner - Nov '06
Hi, my name is Lauren Verner. I'm from Australia and am related to the Verner's from Churchill. I was just wondering if you had any information on my family. I'm really interested in knowing about my families history! It would be great if you could get some to me :D Thanks Lauren.

Robert Greenaway - April '06
On Thursday 27th April 2006, the Churchill bell will officially go on display in Peatlands Park Educational Centre. Ceremony starts at 7.30pm and will include a talk on the Verner estate.

Free in, and everyone is most welcome!

Jeanette Cherry - June '05
Hi, my young daughter and I are interested in finding sites with history and pictures of Churchill House. we live at Tullyroan and are down at peatlands quite a bit so we thought it would be nice to know a bit of local history.

 

 


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