top of page

Southwark Cathedral bells

Restoration of the Cathedral bells

The church that is now Southwark Cathedral was founded as an Augustinian Priory in 1106. William Shakespeare paid for its bells to be rung at the funeral of his younger brother Edmond, which took place on 31 December, 1607.

In 1734, the eight bells were recast into a heavy ring of twelve. They were only the sixth ever ring of twelve, and one of the first complete rings cast as one set. They still rank among the eight heaviest change-ringing peals in the world. In January 1869 Charles Dickens attended ringing practice and published an account in All the Year Round, Dickens weekly literary magazine, on February 27th 1869:

As we go, the tenors voice becomes louder and louder, and the ladder and walls shake more and more, until at last, as we are going to step onto the platform of the bells, we shrink back as from a blow, from the stunning clash of sound with which he greets us.

The restoration project involved removing all the bells from the belfry, lowering them to the cathedral floor through the trap door in the clock room. They were cleaned, and their crowns (the top of the bell to which the clappers are attached) improved, fine-tuned and be turned so that the clappers strike them in a different position. The swing of the clappers was improved so they can be rung more rhythmically. The 1960s fittings such as the headstocks, wheels, pulleys and bearings that the bells are attached to, will be replaced with new modern equivalents.

whitechapel 2.jpg
bottom of page