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Lightning bolt theory over 'dumb' Durham clock tower
A LIGHTNING strike could have caused a clock bell to start chiming for the first time in decades.
The long-silent chime from the clock tower at Durham Crown Court has been resonating again around the Old Elvet area of the city on the hour for more than a week.
But the restored toll is now intermittent, with a gap of about 30 seconds between chimes.
It means it is taking about five or six minutes to complete the noon signal.
The return of the once familiar sound at the 200-year-old court building has baffled court staff and regular users, but it has become a talking point between cases.
Several theories abound, including an act of God and even paranormal activity.
A bolt of lightning amid a recent thunderstorm during the lingering unseasonal early summer downpours appears to be the favoured explanation.
Resident judge Christopher Prince recalls a jolt during a recent Friday afternoon sitting at the court, while others present that day say car alarms suddenly started activating in the adjacent court car park. Judge Prince said he said he cannot remember the clock chiming in nearly 30 years attending the court as a barrister and judge.
Court manager Carol Marshall confirmed that no work has been carried out on the clock or in the tower recently.
She said: “It is a real mystery. No one knows why it has suddenly started chiming again, but it has been since we had the heavy rainfall over the weekend of June 17 and 18. People seem to think the lightning may have struck the building and set it off again.”
A court security guard, who did not want to be named, first heard it shortly after opening the building on Monday last week and said she was startled because it was the first time it has chimed in the few years she has worked at the court.
More seasoned court regulars say they can recall the clock chiming, but no one can remember exactly when it was last heard.
The theory that it may be an act from beyond the grave of an executed murderer is gaining popularity in some court circles.
A glance down the list of public executions at the court during the capital punishment era reveals none happened on June 18 or 19.