The Cathedral has a peal of eight bells, which are hung for full-circle change ringing in the English style.
The bells cannot be used for playing tunes. Instead they are rung to mathematical permutations called 'methods' ranging from fairly simple to highly complex. The methods have intriguing names, such as "Grandsire Triples", "Plain Bob Minor" and "Superlative Surprise Major".
Each bell is rung by one person, who turns it in full circle by means of a rope attached to a wooden wheel, and running down through the floor to the ringer below. The methods are rung by memory, and co-ordinated by a conductor who rings one of the bells. Ringers remember the methods by learning the 'blue line' ... or the course of their own bell amongst the other bells.
It takes some time to master the art of controlling and handling a bell in this way, and the next step of learning and ringing more advanced methods can take up all of a ringer's time and life.
A "peal" in change-ringing is a long length of continuous ringing by the same band, usually over 5000 changes. This must be rung without fault to be counted, and will take between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the weight of the bells. Ringers more frequently ring "quarter peals" (around 1200 changes) for practice and experience. These take around 35-55 minutes.
The art and science of change-ringing in this style originated in England. It is thought that ringers became bored with jangling the bells indiscriminately (as is still done in many European countries today) and attempted to ring them in a neat scale from highest to lowest. To do this there had to evolve a method of accurately controlling the bell, and it was discovered that if the bell were equipped with a full wheel and rotated through 360 degrees then this control could be achieved. Modern bells are equipped with a mechanism to prevent them from going right over at the top of each swing. Once the ringers could ring scales then they started varying the order in which bells were rung, until the practice of change ringing became widespread in the late seventeenth century.
Bells are often rung half-muffled for funerals and in memorial of the departed - a leather pad is attached to one side of the clapper which makes each alternate stroke sound very soft. Bells are usually only ever rung fully-muffled on the death of the reigning Monarch.
St George's Cathedral Bells
The original eight bells were cast by John Warner, London in 1901. They were paid for by a public appeal as a memorial for Queen Victoria. The tenor bell weighed 18cwt (916kg). These bells were hung high in the tower and were very difficult to ring, causing the tower to sway alarmingly. In fact for many years they were not rung at all. After a severe earthquake in 1968 there was some concern over the cracking of the tower and dislodging of brickwork, and the bells were finally silenced in 1973.
An appeal was launched to replace and rehang the bells, and a new, lighter eight were cast by John Taylor's bell foundry, Loughborough, in 1975. The original bells were sent back to be recast, leaving only the original tenor bell hung stationary above the other bells. This is electronically operated, tolled as a service bell, and strikes the hours.
The present ring of eight bells, despite being hung much lower in the tower, have caused some concern regarding movement of the tower, which is quite noticeable when the bells are ringing. However, recent extensive tests have concluded that there is no danger of damage or threat to safety. The bells have a fine tone, and were rehung in 2007 as part of the restoration of the Cathedral.
Peal of 8 bells in G by John Taylor & Co. 1975
Tenor: 567kg (11cwt and 18lbs)
Practice most Tuesday evenings from 6pm - 8pm (or sometimes 7.30pm)
Sunday mornings from 9am until 9.55am
Sunday evenings from 4pm until 5pm (usually a quarter peal is attempted at this time)
Visiting ringers are always warmly welcomed!
Listen to the Bells!
The Cathedral Bells ringing Plain Bob Triples
The Cathedral Bells ringing Grandsire Triples, half-muffled
Tower captain: Josclyn Sloan
To contact the Bell Ringers email to email@example.com
Or call the Cathedral Office on +61 8 9325 5766 during office hours.