Bells are musical instruments! There have been bells at Lichfield Cathedral for at least 700 years. An ancient document records how a campanile in the Close 'with its bells' was destroyed by fire. A national survey of churches after the Reformation reveals that there were 12 bells in two of the towers in 1552.
In 1688 during the restoration following the Civil War (in which the cathedral was extensively damaged) a ring of 10 bells was installed in the South West tower. They were cast by Henry Bagley of Ecton, Northamptonshire. Rings of more than eight bells were rare at that time, and these were the first complete ring of ten all cast by one founder.
In the succeeding years three of Bagley's bells had to be recast, then, in 1947, the whole peal of ten was recast to celebrate the Cathedral's 750th anniversary. The Freemasons of Staffordshire generously covered the cost; the bellfounders were John Taylor and Co. of Loughborough. The 1688 wooden frame, however, remained and has needed much strengthening and repairing since.
Our peal of ten bells is regarded as one of the finest peals of 10 in the world. The smallest bell, the 'treble' sounds F sharp. It weighs 5cwt 3qtrs 2lbs (293 kg). The largest bell, the ‘tenor’ weighs 31cwt 2qtrs 9lbs (1604 kg) and sounds the note D.
The Cathedral clock chimes the quarters (on bells 1 2 3 and 6) and the hours on the tenor - the dates from the late 19th century and is still hand-wound daily.
The bells are rung before Sunday services (from 1015 to 1055 and 1415 to 1455) and for other special occasions - cathedral or diocesan services and national occasions.
Practice night is Monday from 19.45 to 21.15. Visitors are always welcome.
Learners (of any age!) are always welcome. We also have a very successful programme of teaching pupils from our Cathedral School.
We have a 'simulator' - a computer program which enables us to ring the bells 'full circle' as we normally do on a Sunday but with the clappers (which normally strike the bells) held still with restraints. Sensors on the wheels to which the bells are attached then give us computer sound in the ringing room so that we don't disturb the residents of the Close - this is really good for learners!
You can hear Grandsire Caters being rung by our Cathedral ringers here.
Interested in finding out more?
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