New Bells Cast To Mark 800th Anniversary Of Cambridge University

PUBLISHED: 13:21 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:51 04 May 2010

the new bells

the new bells

NEW bells have been cast to mark the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. They will replace some of the most famous bells in the United Kingdom. The 12 existing bells, which are housed in the University Church, Great St Mary s, include those on whic

NEW bells have been cast to mark the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University. They will replace some of the most famous bells in the United Kingdom.

The 12 existing bells, which are housed in the University Church, Great St Mary's, include those on which the Cambridge Chimes were written. These later became the chimes for Big Ben and churches around the country.

Although the five bells on which the chimes were written will still be used to ring out the famous motif, the full set has become so worn that they need to be withdrawn from general use to preserve the chime for future generations.

A new set of 12 has been cast at Taylors, Eayre and Smith in Loughborough and work began to replace the old bells today (April 15).

Great St Mary's has the only peal of 12 bells in the Ely Diocese. In 1793, the Reverend Dr Joseph Jowett used five to compose the Cambridge Chimes which were later copied for Big Ben and renamed the Westminster Chimes.

The full set is in almost constant service. They are used up to three times on Sundays for services and University Sermons, on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights for practice and teaching sessions, on Saturdays for weddings and also other occasions such as new year, funerals and for memorial services.

As a result, during the last 300 years, they have had to be re-cast, re-tuned, replaced and even welded back together. Structural problems, including the sway of the church tower, have also made ringing them difficult.

The new peal was made possible through a generous donation by Dr Dill Faulkes, a bell-ringer and member of the University 800th Campaign Board.

"Four of the current bells will go to other churches, with the rest remaining at Great St Mary's," said the Reverend Canon John Binns, Vicar of Great St Mary's.

"The historic Cambridge Chimes on which the Westminster chimes in Big Ben were modelled will still be used to ring out that theme and will be preserved into the future. The new bells will enable high-quality ringing that will be enjoyed by local people, and at the same time will ensure the preservation of an important part of our history. It will be a peal of bells of which the church, University and city can be justly proud."

Work to install the new bells is scheduled to finish in June. The intervening months will see a brief, necessary hiatus in the traditional playing of the famous chimes.

Dr Faulkes said: "As a bell-ringer and benefactor, I am delighted to help Cambridge University and Great St Mary's sustain their important and historic partnership in this 800th anniversary year. It gives me great pleasure to know that these new bells will be enjoyed by everyone in Cambridge for many hundreds of years to come.

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