The bells of St Paul’s Cathedral are to be removed later this month for restoration work, meaning that the Cathedral’s celebratory bells will fall silent until late next year.
Following a traditional New Year peal, the final time they rang this year, the bells are to be removed from the north west tower later this month and taken to the foundry of John Taylor & Co in Loughborough, where they were cast in 1878.
There they will be cleaned to remove a thick layer of grime and fitted with new moving parts to improve their performance.
During the bells’ restoration, the timber bellframe onside the Cathedral tower will be strengthened to preserve it for many more years. The ringing room, where the ringers operate, will be fitted with better lighting and the historic records of the peals that have been rung at significant moments in history will be restored.
This will only be the third time in their history that the bells have been silent for any length of time, the previous occasions being the two World Wars and a period from 1925 to 1930 when the Cathedral itself was closed for major building works.
The restoration work has been made possible by donations from the Corporation of London and the seven livery companies who originally gave the bells, bellringing charities, individual ringers including the Cathedral’s own company and other donors.
It is hoped that the bells will be back in operation in time for their 140th birthday on 1st November 2018.
However, the towers will not be entirely silent, as the original service bell – ‘The Banger’ – which dates from 1700, will still rung for the 8am Eucharist.
The hours will also be marked by Great Tom, which weighs over 5 tons, and as well as striking the hours, is tolled on the death of senior members of the Royal Family, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Dean of St Paul’s or the Lord Mayor of London.
The south west tower also houses Great Paul, the largest bell ever cast in the British Isles, which weighs 16½ tons. Sadly, Great Paul has not sounded for several years because of a broken chiming mechanism.