St Paul’s Cathedral bells welcomed back to town

Cast in 1878 at the John Taylor & Co bellfoundry, in Freehold Street, Loughborough, they have come home to Leicestershire for some loving care and maintenance.


Andrew Wilby inspects St Paul’s Cathedral’s tenor bell, which is being refurbished at the John Taylor and Co bell foundry, in Loughborough. - Author: STUDIO 17

They have rung out in solemn reverence for Winston Churchill’s state funeral and again in celebration of the Queen’s Coronation and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Meet the bells of St Paul’s Cathedral, whose chimes have been a soundtrack to some of the most significant occasions in modern British history.

Cast in 1878 at the John Taylor & Co bellfoundry, in Freehold Street, Loughborough, they have come home to Leicestershire for some loving care and maintenance.

The 12 bells, which last rang out for the traditional new year peal, are being painstakingly restored over the next few months to something of their Victorian pomp.

Andrew Wilby, chairman and director of John Taylor & Co, said: “It’s great to see the bells, although it’s not the first time for me as I used to be a bell-ringer at St Paul’s some time ago.

“We are very proud to welcome them back to Loughborough and the very same foundry where they were cast 140 years ago.

“At the time, they were the largest cathedral or church bells in the world.

“They are certainly very impressive, and still one of the most culturally important peals of bells anywhere, having been heard at some of the most significant occasions in our history.”

The bells are being cleaned to remove a thick layer of grime that has collected over time.

They will also be fitted with new moving parts to improve their performance and longevity.

With routine maintenance, the bells should then be able to continue for another 140 years.

Mr Wilby said: “We’ve only recently started the work and there’s a way to go yet.

“But we’re confident the bells are ready for the commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War Armistice, in November, which will also be their 140 birthday.”

Some of St Paul’s bells have remained at the cathedral, including Great Paul, weighing in at nearly 18 tons, which occupies the cathedral’s South Tower and is the biggest bell ever cast by Taylor’s.

And the cathedral towers will not be entirely silent, as the clock bells – including Great Tom – will continue to sound, as will the original service bell which dates from 1700.

Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan visited St Paul’s in April to see the bells being lowered ahead of their journey to the East Midlands.

She said: “Craftsmen-made bells cast at Taylor’s have been an iconic part of Loughborough life for nearly 300 years.

“How wonderful is it to know that bells made by Loughborough hands are heard by millions of people every day and all over the world.”

Following the recent closure of the Whitechapel Bellfoundry, Taylor’s is the last remaining major bell foundry in Britain.

The grade II*-listed foundry was purpose-built in 1859 and is on the Historic England Heritage At Risk Register.

Over the years it has benefited from a number of repair grants from Historic England but still needs support.

This will be only one of a handful of times in their history that the bells have been silent for any length of time – the previous occasions being the two world wars and a period from 1925 to 1930 when the cathedral itself was closed for major building works.

GODSALL, David; OWEN, Dave

Loughborough Echo (22-06-2018)

  • LONDON: Bells, bell ringers and bell ringing
  • LOUGHBOROUGH: Bells, bell ringers and bell ringing
  • TAYLOR, JOHN & CO (LOUGHBOROUGH) : Inventory of bells
  • Europe is ringing: Bibliography
  • Restoration of bells: Bibliography

     

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