Cathedral Bells

More about: music at the Cathedral

photo: The Queen Liliuokalani Bell at The Cathedral of St. Andrew
The Queen Liliuokalani Bell at The Cathedral of St. Andrew

In 1875 a 600 lb. bell made by Warner, a firm of bell-founders in England, arrived in Hawai‘i to be hung in the pro-Cathedral. When the bell was dedicated it was stated rather pointedly in the local press: May its summons be heeded by many who disregarded the old one.

When the Mackintosh Tower was completed in 1912, the bell was moved there and has been in service ever since. In 1991, a peal of eight bells was hung in the Tower. They were cast by John Briant, a well-known bell-founder and turret clockmaker in Hertford, England, who lived from 1749 to 1829. During his long working life of forty-five years Briant made 420 bells.

The new bells, which have been given to St. Andrew’s Cathedral by Laith Reynolds of Australia, came from St. Alkmund’s Church in Shrewsbury, England. In 1621, when St. Alkmund’s original three bells were melted down, John Clibury cast five bells; a treble bell was added in 1695. By 1811 the bells and the fittings were so worn that they were unsafe to use. They were taken down and this time John Briant cast eight bells from the molten metal.

The new set of bells first sounded at St. Alkmund’s on Easter of 1812 and on Whitsunday the first peal of Oxford Treble Bob Major, consisting of 5,000 changes, was rung. Two years later the bells of St. Alkmund’s celebrated Wellington’s victory in Spain and, in 1815, his decisive triumph over Napoleon at Waterloo. Thereafter they rang out over the city and the England-Wales border country on momentous occasions such as coronations and royal visits to Shrewsbury.

The eight change-ringing bells of St. Andrew’s were the gift of Mr. Laith Reynolds of Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada; their installation was the gift of HRH Abigail Kawananakoa. Installed in a tower seemingly built for them eighty years before their arrival, they are the most remote set of change ringing bells in the world and a point of pilgrimage for bell ringers the world over.  A cadre of dedicated ringers at St. Andrew’s, originally trained by ringers from around the world, maintains a schedule of ringing before 5:30 p.m. Sunday Service, as well as at celebratory services throughout the year. The Bell Ringers host ringers from around the world who generously assist with the ringing duties.

Bell ringing in the Tower

Bell ringing requires considerable concentration, skill, and durability to pull the ropes in the correct order over a protracted period of time. But bell-ringers, traditionally volunteers, are devoted to their avocation. The old ledgers at St. Alkmund’s, however, do contain frequent expenditures for “ale for ringers.”