Table of Contents: All Bedtime Stories
Listen to the Bedtime Story The Bells fall silent, based around our arrangement of the Nursery Rhyme Oranges And Lemons. Here you can listen to excerpts of all stories (narrated by Peter Bradbury). You can read along with every story online on our website or you can download all story texts and soundtracks individually (MP3 + PDF). In addition, all 20 stories are available together as an illustrated eBook with audio included (our full package download).
One Sunday morning Joe and his mother began their journey to his Granny’s. As he heard the bells chime, his usual smile turned to a frown.
Joe stopped and listened carefully. He had heard the bells so many times that he knew the order in which they would talk to each other. Some would sound loud and close by as they took their turn and some would be a distant chime and then the boom would return when it was their turn again. This would happen three or four times before they fell silent until next Sunday.
Granny told Joe that only a true Cockney could hear the great bell at Bow chiming in their home. This pleased Joe as this was the quietest of all the chimes but he could still hear it. Joe could hear this distant boom now, so he knew that it wasn’t Bow who was missing that summer’s day. It was a closer bell. As they spoke again he realised it was St Martin’s that wasn’t answering back to his friends.
Granny was sitting down at her table. There were lemon cakes, there was orange juice for Joe and there was tea for Granny and Mum. It was wonderful going to Granny’s, they would all talk for hours about life in London and they shared a love of the bells. Granny always knew Joe and her daughter would come through the door on Sunday morning after the chimes had finished. Granny was nearly 80 years old and she would talk about her life as a young girl and pass on the stories her mother and father had told her.
“Why the sad face, Joe?” Granny asked as Joe sat down at the table. “Did you hear the bells, Granny?” Joe asked. “Yes, it was old St Martin who didn’t chime,” Granny replied. “Why has he stopped chiming? It all sounds wrong without his words in the conversation.”
As Granny poured herself and Mum a cup of tea and placed a slice of lemon cake in front of Joe she began to tell Joe about the bells. “Well Joe, the bells all have stories to tell and have been talking to each other for many years, even before my parents were born. The story goes that when the big ships arrived into the wharves with wonderful foods from other countries the bells of the churches would chime to tell the merchant men that they could collect the oranges and lemons to sell on their stalls. St Clement’s would ring first, then St Leonard’s would chime, followed by St Dunstan’s at Stepney. These bells were outside the city walls and they were telling all to come and see. St Martin’s would then tell his side of London, then finally St Mary-Le-Bow would boom her big bell to tell the whole of London: ‘Come and see what wonders we have from other Countries’. But in the great fire of London in 1666 St Martin’s was badly burned down and all that was left was the nave. The bells at St Martin’s were silent for many years until a kindly gentlemen gave five farthings to have him fixed.”
“What’s five farthings?” Joe asked his eyes wide.
“Five farthings is very old money Joe.” Granny stood up and walked out of the room. She returned with some round pieces of bronze coloured metal. Granny placed them in his hand and said quite seriously: “The story goes that if you take five farthings to the nave of St Martin’s the bells will chime again.”
Joe’s mouth had fallen open and he gulped, then slowly nodded.
Joe clung to his Mum’s hand as they left Granny’s house. He knew exactly what he had to do.
On St Martin’s Lane the grand church stood. Mum stood at the end of the altar as Joe released his hand from hers and continued to walk on. As Joe walked he passed a man with a hard hat and a ladder who was whistling a merry tune. He winked at Joe. Joe continued and as he approached the nave of the church he stopped. This is the only part of the church that was not burned in the fire - he thought, and he imagined the flames wrapping themselves around the grand church. Joe shuddered. He placed the coins on a stone and he whispered: “Here are your five farthings. Please join in with the stories again!”
Sunday arrived again and Joe pulled his front door closed and linked his arm into his Mum’s. The smile on his face beamed bigger than ever as the bells all chimed their beautiful stories. It had worked! St Martin’s sounded louder than ever. Joe burst through Granny’s door and as ever, laid on the table was Lemon cake, tea for Granny and Mum and orange juice for Joe. But there was also a jar sitting in Joe’s place. As he sat down and picked it up he saw that there were five more coins jingling at the bottom.
He looked over at Granny who winked and said “You keep the jar for the future, Joe. Maybe your children will need them to keep the bells chiming someday!” Mum smiled at Granny.
Joe pressed the jar into his chest and winked back at Granny.
“Oranges and lemons”
Say the bells of St. Clement’s
“You owe me five farthings”
Say the bells of St. Martin’s
“When will you pay me?”
Say the bells of Old Bailey
“When I grow rich”
Say the bells at Shoreditch
“When will that be?”
Say the bells of Stepney
“I’m sure I don’t know”
Says the great bell at Bow
© 2015, written by Celine Watts