MusicThe Bells

The Bells

St. Paul’s possesses a fine ring of twelve bells. The tenor weighing 28 cwts 3 qrs 6 lbs (1466kg), the peal being in the key of D. The total weight of all twelve bells is 6 tons 13cwts 3 qrs 16 lbs (6816kg).

The bells were cast by John Taylor and Co of Loughborough and were one of the earliest rings to be Simpson Tuned. Each bell is tuned on the five note principle.

Bells number 3, 4, 5 and the Tenor were cast at the end of 1896; 6, 7, 8 and 10 (the Sacring bell) were cast in 1897. The 11th was the only bell kept from the previous ring of eight bells and was cast by Thomas Lester of London in 1744. This bell was recast by Taylors in 1945 as the Victory Bell and bears the inscription ‘Non Clamor sed Amor Cantat in Aure Dei’ (Not noise but love sings in God’s ear). The trebles (1 & 2) were added in 1977, to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the Diocesan Centenary.

All the bells were taken down for safety during World War II and stored in the church yard, being rehung in 1945.

The Clock

The clock dates from 1811, predating the present tower (1867 by Palgrave). It is the largest clock in north Bedfordshire with four, eight foot dials. The maker is John Moore and Sons of Clerkenwell, London. The movement has a deadbeat escapement.

The clock originally played ‘ding dong’ quarters on two bells, striking the hour on the tenor bell. In 1908 John Bull & Co of Bedford converted it to play the Cambridge quarters (or the Westminster chimes as they later became known, when used for Big Ben).

The quarters strike on bells number 6, 7, 8 and 11 whilst the hours are struck on the 12th (Tenor bell). The clock was converted to electric winding in 1959 with an automatic cut-out to prevent over winding.

In 2002, thanks to a legacy by Winifred Hall, the quarter chimes and hour striking mechanisms were restored after nearly thirty years of silence; thus making St. Paul’s an aural as well as a visual presence in the centre of Bedford. The clock had a major overhaul during 2008.

The Carillon

The carillon, a mechanism for automatically playing tunes on the bells was made by Gillett and Bland in 1879 and was purchased by public subscription.

It played tunes every third hour starting at 9.0 a.m. with a cut-out at night. There are several barrels which were changed weekly, playing hymns on Sundays and secular tunes during the week. Amongst its repertoire were Home Sweet Home; Barbara Allen and Drink to me Only.

On Barrel 1 is the Sunday Hymn tune ‘Bedford’ composed by William Weale c.1720 who was then organist of this church.

This rare machine is now derelict, being last heard in the 1960s, when the connection to the bells was dismantled.