Rochester Cathedral

Company of Bell Ringers

 

 Founded 1904

History of the Bells at Rochester Cathedral

The first reference to bells at the Cathedral are recorded in the Registrum Roffense and in the chronicles of William of Dene in Anglia Sacra. These references refer to bells that were in the original Saxon Cathedral founded by St. Augustine in 604 A.D..

The earliest references to bells in the current Cathedral started by Gundulf date from 1154 where it is recorded that Prior Reginald "fecit duas campanas et posuit eas in majore turri. Una fracta apposita est ad aliam campanam faciendam". (made two bells and put them in the greater tower. Another bell was made from a cracked one). The greater tower mentioned here refers to the Gundulf Tower which still stands on the north side of the cathedral.

 In 1343, Bishop Hamo de Hythe caused the central tower to be heightened, "necnon et quatuor campanas novas in eodem ponere quaram nomina sunt hec:- Dunstanus, Paulinus, Itamarus atque Lanfrancus." (and further (caused) to hang in the same four new bells whose names are:- Dunstan, Paulinus, Itamar, and Lanfranc). By 1545, there were six bells hanging in the central tower. In 1635 the third bell of the six was recast, and, from the inscriptions on the bells, it was shown that the following work was carried out during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries:-

 1635                    Third bell recast.

 1683                    Fifth and tenor bells recast.

 1695                    Treble bell recast by John Wood of Chancery Lane, London.

1712                    Fourth bell recast by James Bagley of Cripplegate, London.

The Cathedral bells, pre 1904

Bell

Diameter

Weight

Note

Inscription

Treble

34"

8 cwt

B

Cast 1695. Recast 1770 by Pack & Chapman, London.

2

34.5"

9-2-0

A

 

3

40"

12 cwt

G

JOHN * WILNAR * MADE * ME 1635

4

44"

14 cwt

F#

JAMES BAGLEY OF LONDON Made Me 1712

A [] R IB

5

48"

18 cwt

E

* CHISTOPHERVS * HODSON * A D * MDCLXXXIII oooo FECIT oooooooo ANNOQUE * SERNIS * REGIS * CAROLI * () II * XXXV

(Royal Arms on Waist)

Tenor

52"

26 cwt

D

FECIT CHRS HODSON AD . MDCLXXXIV . REGIS CAROLI II . XXXV . REFECIT THOS MEARS AD MDCCCXXXIV . REGIS GUILIELMI . IV . V .

 At the beginning of the 20th Century, the tower and spire were rebuilt. In 1904, on the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Cathedral, the new tower and spire were dedicated by Dr. Randall Davidson, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. At the same time, four of the six bells were recast by Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel, and two more bells were added, also cast by Mears and Stainbank, to produce a ring of eight bells, tuned to the key of D Major, the tenor weighing 26cwt. All of this work was at the expense of Thomas Hellyar Foord.

The Cathedral Bells, 1904

Bell

Weight

Diameter

Pitch

Cast

Founder

1

6-3-14

311/2"

D

1904

Mears & Stainbank

2

7-2-6

323/4"

C#

1904

Mears & Stainbank

3

8-2-15

351/8"

B

1904

Mears & Stainbank

4

9-3-20

373/4"

A

1904

Mears & Stainbank

5

12-0-14

41"

G

1904

Mears & Stainbank

6

16-0-9

44"

F#

1712

James Bagley

7

18-2-5

473/4"

E

1904

Mears & Stainbank

8

26-1-0*

52"

D

1834

Thomas Mears II


The first full peal was rung on the bells in 1905 to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar and is recorded on a peal board displayed in the Ringing Chamber which is also duplicated below.

Unusually, considering the life expectancy of a ring of bells, in 1920 the Dean and Chapter commissioned Gillett and Johnston of Croydon to recast the existing eight bells and to add two more to bring the number of bells to ten

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