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BIRMINGHAM* Metropolitan Cathedral Church of S Chad (R.C.) 8, 15-3-6 in F

Grid Reference 139/070876 chad - Source St Martins' Guild
Postcode B4 6EU
Affiliation St Martin's Guild
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday c.1200-1220 - after service
Practice None
Other Information Cathedral Website


St Chad’s was built between 1839 and 1841 to serve the rapidly expanding Catholic population in Birmingham. It replaced a Georgian classical chapel built in 1808 by William Hollins. The present Cathedral was designed in North German 13th century style by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852), the world famous pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. It was consecrated on 21 June 1841 by Bishop Walsh. The Cathedral is built of brick with Bath stone dressings. The south-west spire was added by Pugin’s eldest son, Edward Welby, in 1856 in memory of Canon John Moore (Administrator 1841-1848). St Chad’s was the first Catholic cathedral erected in England since the Reformation. It became the Cathedral formally in 1850. In 1941 St Chad’s was made a minor basilica by Pope Pius XII on the occasion of its centenary. St Edward’s Chapel was added in 1933 by Sebastian Pugin Powell, Pugin’s grandson, as a memorial to Archbishop Edward Ilsley, 2nd Bishop and 1st Archbishop of Birmingham. In November 1940 a bomb came through the Cathedral roof, bounced on the floor and exploded when it hit the central heating pipes. The pipes burst and the water extinguished the bomb, thus saving the Cathedral from destruction.

The current ring of bells are in the left, or North-West tower. They hang in a two tier cast iron H-frame, with 3, 4 and 5 on top. The lower frame is made up of H-Frames and the upper of Lowside "A Frames". The lower frame is Pickford layout 5.12 and the upper 3.1.

All the bells were cast with flat tops and none have been turned.

By the consecration Taylors had suppled a 17cwt bell. It was hung in the North-West tower, not as is sometimes said, the other tower. This bell was used for its metal when a new ring of 5, tenor 13-3-11 was supplied from the Whitechapel foundry in 1849. Blews augmented these bells to 8 in 1877. The first peal on the bells, Grandsire Triples, was rung on 20th February 1878.

Though there was a quote from Carrs in 1939 for rehanging these bells, they not having cast a bell themselves for some time and who had done little in the way of bellhanging in recent times, the authorities were persuaded to replace them with a completely new ring. These were duly cast in 1939 and blessed in 1940. They are a fine example of their founder's art and are popular for peals, especially of Stedman. The Ringing World of July 28th 1939 reported:

"Many of the visitors to the Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner are familiar with the ring of eignt bells at St. Chad's Catholic Cathedral, Birmingham, and will no doubt be interested to know that the peal is to be recast and rehung in a new framework by John Taylor and Co."

This appeared in the edition of February 23rd 1940:

The ring of eight bells at St. Chad’s Cathedral, which have been recast by Messrs. John Taylor and Co., were recently blessed by the Bishop according to the traditional rite. This includes the singing of appropriate psalms, sprinkling with holy water, and anointing, each bell being finally struck by the Bishop with a heavy hammer. The ceremony was performed before the bells were hung in the tower and no further dedication is necessary. They will, therefore, be available for ringing on the day of the annual Johnson memorial dinner, March 2nd, from 3 to 4 p.m . Should any band wish to ring them earlier in the day, Mr. Albert W alker will make the necessary arrangements if application is made to him by letter. His address is 81, Baker Street, Sparkhill, Birmingham, 11."

The bells were highly praised in speeches at the dinner. There was a further report in the edition of March 29th 1940:

St. Chad’s (R.C.) Cathedral bells spoke with a new voice on the occasion of the Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner on March 2nd, when they were rung for the first time after restoration at the Loughborough Bell Foundry.
For some little time the old bells had been in poor condition, while ringing had become ' horse work ' on account of the dilapidated state of the frame. Now, however, that is all changed and St. Chad’s possesses a glorious ring with a tenor 15 cwt. 3 qr. 6 lb. in F, a credit both to the Cathedral and the bell foundry.
It may be of interest to some ringers to relate the story of these bells upon which so many peals have been rung and which have the closest connections with Birmingham ringers of the old school.
In 1687 a company of Franciscan Friars ventured back to Birmingham and built, in what is now ‘ Mass-House Lane,’ a substantial church and convent, to which James II. gave timber valued at £180. This church was destroyed by a mob in 1688, and as the Penal Laws were again in force, the Fathers retired to Edgbaston. In 1786 they again returned to Birmingham and built St. Peter’s Church, Broad Street (which is still standing). This church, small in size, became rapidly inadequate for the growing number of Catholics in the town so that, in 1806, a warehouse in Water Street was acquired. Two years later this, in its turn, was superseded by ' Old St. Chad’ s ’ on the site of the present Cathedral in Bath Street. The existing building was consecrated on June 22nd, 1841, thirteen Bishops being present.
The Cathedral, which is of red brick with stone facings and dressings, has two towers with spires, one at the north-west and the other at the south-west angle of the church. In the north-west tower hang the bells.
The earliest mention of bells in this church is in 1840, when the Catholic Friendly Society presented a large bell of some 17 to 20 cwt. to the Cathedral. This hung in the south-west tower. Eight years later a ring of five bells was cast by Mears, of London, the single bell being removed to provide metal for the new ring.
These bells were supplied to the order of Mr. John Hardm an as a memorial of Dr. Moore, the then administrator, on his being appointed president of Oscott College. The ring of five bells (tenor of which was 13 cwt. 3 qr. 11 lb.) cost £269 0s. 11d .; five clappers, £5 ; headstocks, ironwork, wheels, pulleys, bearings, etc., £25; making and fixing bell frame, £30; total £329 0s. 11d .
These bells were opened in August, 1849, by William Chattell and his band from St. Philip’s Church. In 1851 they were rehung in the north-west tower.
Some 25 years later (in 1876-7) a movement was set on foot to augment the peal to eight, subscriptions were raised (one bell was given by a private donor), and on Easter Sunday, April 1st, 1877, three trebles cast by William Blews were blessed and the new ring of eight were rung for the first time.
At least one Birmingham ringer, still living, was present on that occasion, Mr. Tom Miller, who was a regular ringer at St. Chad’s for 56 years. ‘ Tom ’ incidentally took part in the first and last peals on the old bells, the former on February 20th, 1878, the latter (in honour of his 80th birthday) on July 6th, 1938.
The trebles supplied by Blews were hung in the upper tier of the frame, which was extended to receive them. The first peal was rung on February 20th, 1878, the method was Grandsire Triples and the ringers William Saniger treble, Thomas Miller 2, Robert H. McDonald 3, Samuel Jarman 4, Henry Jones 5, Charles Standbridge 6, Freeman Ball (conductor) 7, Anthony Druce tenor.
Many subsequent peals were rung here, including several ‘ firsts ' and this tower was a favourite resort of Birmingham ringers of former days. Many good stories are told of the old stalwarts_ of St. Chad’s band, and Henry Johnson rang one peal there, the first of Stedman on the bells.
About 12 months ago, the condition of the bells having become extremely bad, it was decided to take the matter of restoration in hand, and after discussions between the local band and the Cathedral authorities and officers of the St. Martin’s Guild, Messrs. Taylor and Co. were commissioned to recast the old bells and rehang them with all new fittings in a new frame.
The bells were solemnly blessed by Dr. Griffin, Bishop Auxiliary, on February 14th, according to the ancient rites of the Church.
On Saturday, March 2nd, a large number of ringers assembled at the Cathedral to try the bells. After a 504 of Stedman Triples as the opening touch had been rung, the new bells showed all their good qualities in touches in various methods. As their glorious tones floated oyer the roof tops of the city, those present were loud in their praises of the bells, and Messrs. Taylor, the founders, came in for many congratulations.
The new bells are an excellent job, tenor 15 cwt. 3 qr. 6 lb. in F, and are in every way worthy of the Cathedral. The tone and ‘ go ’ are perfection. . The first touch on the bells was rung bv F. E. Pervin 1, A. Walker (conductor) 2, Mrs. A. Richardson 3, J. W . Jones 4, D. Clift 5, W . Viggers 6, R . Richardson 7, G. E. Fearn 8.
Regular ringing began on Easter Day and will take place on Sundays at 10.30 a.m. and 6 p.m."

The last peal on the old bells was:

The first peal on the new bells had to wait until the ban on ringing was lifted in 1943:


There is an angelus bell of c.2cwt, possibly by Carr c.1895, with a diameter of 20.125" and sounding the note Bb in the South-West tower. This bell was hung there in 1993-4 after being obtained from a Victorian school or church in the diocese. It is sounded by a solenoid clapper operated from an angelus tolling unit supplied and installed by John Taylor & Co in May 1994.

(Most of the above information is quoted directly (with permission) from the research notes of Chris Pickford)

Details of the Bells

1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   4-1-18  26.625"  1384.0Hz (F-16c)
2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   4-2-24  27.625"  1305.5Hz (E-17c)
3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   5-0-26  29.00"   1163.0Hz (D-17c)
4 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   5-3-26  31.00"   1037.0Hz (C-16c)
5 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   6-3-10  33.625"   923.0Hz (Bb-16c)
6 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939   8-0-26  35.50"    872.0Hz (A-16c)
7 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939  10-2-25  39.125"   776.5Hz (G-17c)
8 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough    1939  15-3-06  44.06"    692.0Hz (F-16c)

Details of the Previous Ring

1 William Blews & Sons, Birmingham  1877   4-3-14  27.875"
2 William Blews & Sons, Birmingham  1877   4-3-17  28.50"
3 William Blews & Sons, Birmingham  1877   5-0-07  29.50"
4 C & G Mears, London               1849   6-0-15  32.00"
5 C & G Mears, London               1849   6-1-03  34.00"
6 C & G Mears, London               1849   7-3-03  36.00"
7 C & G Mears, London               1849   9-2-27  39.50"
8 C & G Mears, London               1849  13-2-25  43.00"    692.0Hz (F-16c)

 Photo Gallery

 Looking East The Organ
The Cathedral -
Looking East
The organ at the West End
An engraving of St Chad's, c.1840  

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