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The Cathedral Bells

The first bells, a peal of 6, were purchased by public subscription. They were castby C and G Mears of London, England in 1851. Shipped to Port Stanley on Lake Erie in 1852, they were brought by oxcart over a rutted track to London. Hung in the 114 foot tower, they were fIrst heard in 1853. These 6 bells were rung in the change ringing style popular in England and required one ringer per rope as the bells were free swinging.

In 1901, the Meredith family, one of London's most prestigious, commissioned the casting of a chime of 10 bells by the English fmn of Gillett and Johnson. These bells were rung using an Ellacomobe chiming apparatus (ie. rope pulls in a console cabinet). One person was able to play hymns and other tunes on these 10 bells. Also purchased at the same time was a weight-driven carillon machine. By means of 4 interchangable metal barrels, hymns and other secular tunes could be played automatically at 9:00 am, noon, 3 :00 pm, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, Sunday to Saturday for four weeks. The same tune was played during the entire day and one barrel lasted the entire week. On Saturday the weights had to be pulled up and another barrel inserted if a change of tunes was desired.

In 1935 the Meredith's had the 10 Gillett and Johnson bells shipped back to England and recast into 11, C to high D plus F sharp and B flat. These bells were heard for the first time on Christmas Eve 1935 and are still in use today. They are played by means of a carillon console (ie. wooden levers serve as keys).

A weight driven, Gillett and Johnson clock was also donated by the Meredith family and installed in 1901. It plays the full Westminister Chimes on the hour and also plays the quarter, half and three quarter hours as well as striking the hours. This clock is still in excellent working condition but is now electrically powered.

In the late 1930's and the 1940's, Mr. Fred Kingsmill, the bell ringer at the time, devised a way to play hymns in his absence during the week. Large rolls of brown paper, which he had punched by hand, were read out by means of a brass cylinder reader and used a motor-driven, compressed air machine to operate the bell hammers. He also created a small key board out of an old piano so that the bells could be played from the tower's first floor rather than on the much higher, second floor where the carillon console was at that time, situated next to the clock. The carillon console is now in the fIrst floor tower room and the bells are played before and after Sunday services as well as for special weekday services.

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472 Richmond Street | London, Ontario, Canada | N6A 3E6

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