Church leaders have launched an appeal to raise £360,000 to restore the 12 bells. They weigh up to three tons each and were the heaviest in the world when installed in 1878.
They are rung three times every Sunday and on national occasions, such as the Queen’s 90th birthday. The bells have only been silenced in wartime.
But surveyors say the condition of the bells has deteriorated and urgent action is required to keep them ringing. In a worst-case scenario they could drop from their supports.
According to a report by the City of London Corporation, one of the bodies approached as part of the fundraising efforts: “After nearly 140 years of constant use, there is a risk that ongoing deterioration will result in the bells falling silent and, more drastically, that one of the bells could fall from its bearings, causing serious damage to itself and the installation.”
The cost of the work has been estimated at £30,000 per bell.
When the repairs are complete, sponsors will have their names inscribed on a donor board to be installed in the ringing room in the north-west tower.
So far, the cathedral has received commitments totalling £268,000. The City of London Corporation is set to make a £30,000 contribution to repair the heaviest bell, which it donated in 1878.
Nick Bodger, the Corporation’s head of cultural and visitor development, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic symbol of the City’s skyline, and plays a pivotal role in positioning the City as a strategically important location within London and the UK.
“Its bells are integral to this positioning. Without them, the City’s standing as a place of celebration and commemoration, and as a world city with international resonance, may be diminished.”
He recommended that the authority’s policy and resources committee approve the donation when it meets next Thursday.
“The request of £30,000 towards the restoration of these bells is considered justified by officers who have cited the positive PR sponsorship may generate and the traditional role of the bells in national occasions,” he said.
“To decline this request may result in negative perceptions about the City corporation and its support of such a loved and iconic landmark.”
The bells will be cleaned and restored at the foundry in Loughborough where they were originally cast.
The smallest will be re-hung on modern metal headstocks and the bells will be returned to the cathedral tower for a re-dedication ceremony next year