Curfew Bell

Nearly every medieval house in Europe used to have an open hearth where a fire was kept going at all times to keep the occupants warm, and also to bake and cook food. The hearth was an integral part of a home and usually placed centrally so that family members could huddle around it during winter. Despite being such an important feature of the house, the hearth posed serious risk of fire, because most dwellings, even those of the higher classes, were built of timber. In order to prevent fire in an unattended hearth from going out of control and accidentally setting a house on fire, people were encouraged to cover the fire with ash or a metal utensil before retiring for the night. To remind people of this crucial step, churches began to ring a bell at a predetermined hour in the evening. This was known as the curfew bell.

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A curfew bell in Leadhills, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Photo: Rosser1954/Wikimedia


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