A team of Derry archaeology enthusiasts have discovered what they believe could be the oldest known church bell in the world.
Templemore Archeaology (TA) discovered the bronze bell stored in a farmyard in Shantallow, where it has remained without being studied by experts since being excavated as part of a building project in the 1930s. The artefact, which measures around one foot in height, is in good condition and shows evidence of Christian design.
Ian Leitch, of Templemore Archaeology, explains that four symbols decorate the bell and one is quite clearly visible as “Our Lord on the cross”. “Another may be St Patrick,” he added.
The team believes the bell dates from 15th century - 1411 to be exact - and may have been made in France. Mr Leitch adds: “According to the Guinness Book of Records 2009, there is a set of bells in Ipswich in England and one of the five bells has a date of 1440. This bell is said to be the oldest church bell in the world.”
“This year marks the 600th anniversary of the bell. It is written that somewhere North of Derry city there once stood an abbey or church within the Greater Shantallow area and it is said to have been inhabited by either nuns or monks.”
It’s believed that the site could be near the historic O’Doherty Castle in the Greater Shantallow area. Members of TA certainly believe they are getting closer following the recent major archaeological find. Mr Leitch says: “TA would now hope, once the bell has been taken to the relevant authorities and restored to its former glory, it can be returned to Derry to be showcased for the public.”
Commending the local team, Shantallow Derry City Councillor Tony Hassan said he would love to see the bell displayed in Derry.