Not far from a famous football stadium is the Gilpin’s Bell, a large pub that is packed on match days. And further up the road is a less famous stone bell.

Gilpin’s Bell is named after John Gilpin, the subject of a comic ballad penned in 1782 by William Cowper, entitled The Diverting History of John Gilpin.

Gilpin was said to be a wealthy draper from Cheapside in London, who owned land at Olney, Buckinghamshire, near where Cowper lived. Gilpin’s spouse decides she and her husband should spend their twentieth wedding anniversary at The Bell Inn, Fore Street, Edmonton.

The journey is beset with misfortune from start to finish. Gilpin loses control of his horse which carries him on to the town of Ware ten miles (16 km) distant. On the return journey, Gilpin is still unable to handle his steed, as he once again he fails to stop at The Bell. The horse gallops back to Cheapside much to the dismay of his concerned spouse.

Of the three pubs claiming to be The Bell none now exist.

A number of locations along his famously fictitious ride are now marked, such as the aforementioned modern pub of dubious quality, and nearby, the stone bell.

The stone bell is also newish – being installed in 1996 and a sculpture by Angela Godfrey, and carved with images of the famous ride, and lines from the ballad.

It sits in a rather indifferent area, seemingly dumped in the middle of the pavement with no indication as to why it is here or what it means.

As an aside, in 1925  a recreation of that famous ride took place as part of a local pageant.


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