chime hours

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There was a belief in some parts of England that those born at certain hours could see ghosts. The crucial time was generally said to be midnight—a Friday midnight, according to Dickens (David Copperfield, chapter 1). But in Somerset and East Anglia people spoke of being ‘born in the chimehours’, a term alluding to the old monastic hours of night prayer, which some churches marked by bell-ringing even after the Reformation; at Blaxhall (Suffolk) these were 8 p.m., midnight, and 4 a.m. (Evans, 1956: 216–17). In Sussex, though the term ‘chime hours’ is not mentioned, the belief was that ‘those born at three, six, nine or twelve o'clock’ would be able ‘to see much that is hidden from others’ (Wales, 1979: 56); these are the daytime hours of monastic prayer. Ruth Tongue said that in Somerset it was the period from Friday midnight to cockcrow on Saturday; she claimed (incorrectly) to be a ‘Chime Child’ herself.

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