The Barnsley Carol for Christmas Eve

A rediscovery of lost music, just in time for the holiday

Oli Steadman
3 min readDec 24, 2023

This morning BBC Radio 4 announced that a choir in Barnsley will perform a forgotten 90-year-old carol for the first time since its rediscovery in the local museum archives. Enchanted by the excerpt they played, I’ve dived into learning the carol for myself to include in my daily singing challenge for 2024 called “365 Days Of Folk”. I look forward to creating an arrangement and sharing with you, with some of my other contributors taking part too.

Do please have a listen to Tegwen Roberts’ exquisite recording. I’m sure we will see many versions of this beautiful song shared by singers, in the coming days — and certainly by 24th December 2024. There has already been a fantastic brass arrangement posted in response.

Photo by Davies Designs Studio on Unsplash

“The Barnsley Carol” was written by Arthur Godfrey in 1933. According to the Barnsley Chronicle Archives, the carol was discovered by Barnsley Museums while researching the anniversary of the iconic Town Hall. The carol was published in the same month the Town Hall was opened and was written by a local musician, Arthur Godfrey. The Museum has recorded the carol using the original words and music and plans to release it on their social media channels on Thursday, 14 December, to coincide with the 90th anniversary of Barnsley Town Hall. The carol is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia and captures the magic of Christmas from a bygone age. It was said about the carol at the time,

“We hope that this carol will be sung and played throughout Barnsley and district this Christmastide, and that it will be appreciated that it is the work of a Barnsley composer.”

I hope this information helps inspire you to go visit the Barnsley Museum website and recording — it is dreamy — and to learn the song for yourself!

Lyrics (from the 1933 transcipt shared by Barnsley Museum in their original blog post):

[NB verses 4–5 are omitted in the abridge but exquisite recording by Tegwen Roberts]


The chime of bells inspires the midnight breeze

And greets with fond caress the whisp’ring trees;

The moon white hills around,

In snow-shine splendour crowned,

With pealing joys resound of Christmas Bells.


Glad tidings of the Saviour bring!

Peace reigneth as ye gaily ring,

Ring on, ring on! Ring on,

While the merry breezes sing of Christmas Bells.


From out the ageless Deep, where sleepeth Time,

Steal silv’ry dreamings of the deathless chime

Heard long ago by men

Whose wond’ring souls were then

Refreshed of God again, by Christmas Bells.


The Christ-Child who to Earth the Father gave,

From maze of Darkness, human souls to save,

Speaks to mankind this hour,

From ev’ry belfry tower,

His voice the vibrant power of Christmas Bells.


The kings of earth shall reign their little day,

And with their puny sceptres pass away;

But He of birth obscure,

Born of a Virgin pure,

Shall reign for evermore: blest Christmas Bells.


Ring on, ring on, ye happy chiming throng,

Unto the future sing your deathless song;

Souls yet unborn shall claim

The kinship of His Name.

Whose Day ye now proclaim, glad Christmas Bells.


The echoes softly die within the night,

But brighter shine the rays of Christian Light;

Far lands and rolling seas,

All nationalities,

Sing to your harmonies, sweet Christmas Bells.