COVENTRY CATHEDRAL* St Michael 12, 33-3-6 in C# (+6b)
|Sunday||c.1130 (after main service)|
|Other Information||Cathedral Website|
History Of The Bells
This is one of the most well known of England's Cathedrals. This is mainly due to the fact that it was fire-bombed in November 1940 during "The Coventry Blitz" and, apart from the tower, largely destroyed. The outside walls, except the clerestory, and the tower are all that remain. A new cathedral was built at right angles to the old one and therefore runs North-South instead of East-West. Of modern design, it provokes either like or dislike amongst visitors, but rarely apathy!
St Michael's Church, as it was originally known, is largely late-14th century to early-15th century in date and is in the "Gothic" style of architecture. Side Chapels were added in the 16th century. Until it was raised to Cathedral status in 1918 it was one of the largest parish churches in the country - its spire rises to 295 feet.
The power struggle between the Earl and the Priory can be seen by the very close proximity of Holy Trinity church to St Michael's. Holy Trinity would be considered to be a large church in many places, but it is located very close to one that is even larger! This church once had a ring of 8 bells (q.v.)
Until 1675 the tower contained a heavy ring of 6 bells, with a tenor of 30-1-5. These bells were recast into a ring of 8 by Henry Bagley I and his son Henry, the tenor now weighing 25-0-12. These were only the second ring of 8 in a Warwickshire church. In May 1774 these bells were recast into a ring of 10, tenor 31-1-14, by Pack & Chapman of London and hung by Robert Turner of Whitechapel. However, the tower was giving cause for concern by 1794 and the bells were rehung in a two tier wooden frame that rose from the ground. The 6th cracked and was recast in 1799 by Thomas Mears. In 1802 the tenor also cracked. This bell was recast by John Briant of Hertford, now weighing in at 32-0-9. At the same time the frame was rearranged to have all the bells on one level.
Before the end of the century the tower was again giving cause for concern. There was a huge restoration of the church in the 1880s and, as part of this, in 1885 the bells were hung dead in the octagonal part of the tower.
An educated guess as to how the bells might have sounded has been produced by Bill Hibbert from data taken from the old 10 prior to them being broken up. It is an interesting read, (and listen!), and can be found here.
The Pack and Chapman bells were recast by Gillett & Johnston in 1927, following a donation to cover the whole cost of a chime of 12 bells plus 2 semitones. There was a huge argument about what to do. E.H. Lewis was a great opponent of "Simpson" tuning and he spoke out vehemently against it at the Consistory Court hearing. The court's decision was that the bells would be recast to ringing weights, just in case a new detached tower was ever built. (This had been actively considered in the 1880s but the main enthusiast died before anything was built).
The Proposed Campanile as it appeared in "The Builder".
After a number of false starts, the bells were rehung for ringing in 1987 much lower in the tower than had been the ring of 10. It was financed largely due to a donation for this purpose given by Lady Lyons, the widow of the founder of Jaguar Cars, William Lyons. They form a fine ring of 12 with a flat 6th. A new ringing room was constructed, above a shop. Glass windows filling the eastern tower opening mean that the ringers can be seen from the ruins. Additionally, hung dead in corner of the frame, is a "sharp 9th" bell. From 1987 the bell was unused, but after a donation for the purpose it has been chimed electronically for services since 2008.
Shortly after the bells were installed, curtains were hung on three sides to reduce the amount of reverberation in the ringing room. These work well and this magnificent ring of bells are a joy to ring.
An analysis, by Bill Hibbert, of the 12 can be found here. The frequency of the tenor equates to C#-18c
Visiting ringers of all experience are actively made welcome.
The entrance is via the gate to the left of the tower as you look at it from the west end of the old cathedral, (visible to the right of the tower on the photograph). If the tower gates are locked wait until the ringing has stopped and make yourself heard!
Details of the Bells
1 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 4-1-00 25.50" 1638.0Hz (G#-24c)
2 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 4-3-24 27.00" 1466.0Hz (F#-16c)
3 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 5-1-05 28.00" 1379.5Hz (E#-22c)
4 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 5-2-16 29.375" 1230.5Hz (D#-20c)
5 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 6-0-05 31.00" 1097.0Hz (C#-18c)
6 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 6-1-22 32.00" 1032.0Hz (B#-24c)
7 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 7-3-23 35.00" 916.0Hz (A#-31c)
8 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 10-2-21 38.50" 820.0Hz (G#-22c)
9 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 14-2-16 42.875" 732.0Hz (F#-19c)
10 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 18-0-14 46.00" 689.5Hz (E#-22c)
11 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 24-1-22 51.00" 614.0Hz (D#-23c)
12 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 33-3-06 57.00" 548.5Hz (C#-18c)
6b Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 7-0-24 33.50" 973.0Hz (B-26c)
9# Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1927 12-1-17 40.50" 773.0Hz (G-24c)