History of the Bells

The first Provost of the Cathedral & Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh, the Very Rev Dr. James F Montgomery (Dean 1878 – 1897) donated the original 10 Bells. The specification for the bells was prepared by the veteran campanologist, Sir Edmund M S Beckett (-Denison) Bart. QC, &c, &c, 5th Baron Beckett and 1st Baron Grimthorpe. Lawyer, horologist and architect, Beckett was very self-opinionated and always specified the heaviest bells possible for every project. He is famed for, amongst other achievements, designing the clock in St Stephen’s Tower, Palace of Westminster and for the specification and procurement of the clock bells including Big Ben, then, at 16 tons the heaviest bell ever cast in the UK.

Our ring of ten bells was to weigh a total of 9 tons, with a tenor bell of just over two tons, and were cast by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough in 1878 & 1879. They were tuned to the Old Standard and were installed by Taylors in 1879. Bells 1 – 6 were cast with integral canons and bells 7 – 10 with flat crowns. All were mounted on elm headstocks and had plain bearings. The ring was installed in a massive, freestanding oak bell frame 23ft x 20ft x 5ft, with individual beams up to 12 ins square and weighing a total of some 13 tons.
On Wednesday 29th October 1879, the bells were solemnly dedicated to the service of Almighty God, in the presence of a large company who had assembled in the belfry. At 4.30pm, the Dean, accompanied by his Chaplain and the Succentor of the Cathedral, with the Organist and Choir (in cassocks), occupied the bell chamber and read the special service.  After this, an invited band from Leeds and York raised and rang the bells for the first time to a touch of Grandsire Caters. A short report of the event appeared in “Church Bells” dated 8th November 1879. Details are:

1     James Lockwood       Leeds
2     William Pawson       Leeds
3     Peter Snowden        Leeds      
4     Thomas Lockwood      Leeds
5     Thomas West          Leeds      
6     William Morell       York
7     William Whittaker    Leeds     
8     Charles Underwood    York
9     William Walker       Leeds      
10    George Breed         York

The next day, 30th October was the official opening of the Cathedral. Several short touches of Grandsire Caters, Plain Bob Royal and Kent Treble Bob Royal were rung and the day was concluded by firing many volleys with the bells.