History of the Bells - Page 2


When the Cathedral was first opened, whilst the eight belfry “windows” had been soundproofed with tight fitting shutters, the four very large lancet windows in the spire were left open so that the full volume of the bells could be heard outside. As the Cathedral stands in what at that time was the most fashionable part of town, this caused noise problems and a Seage’s Dumb Practice apparatus was installed very soon after the dedication and in time to prevent a whole legion of injunctions being set in motion. This apparatus was an arrangement whereby as each bell is swung (the clapper being clamped so that the bell does not sound) a trigger mechanism activates one of ten small hand-bells within the ringing room. As far as we know, this was used for practices thereafter and certainly it was still in use in the 1950’s. During the 1960’s the N and S lancet windows in the spire were bricked-up and as a result, the problem of excessive noise was considered solved and the Seage apparatus became obsolete.

At the time of dedication, an Ellacombe chiming apparatus was also fitted and was played by a rope clavier in the ringing room. There is no record of its intended or actual usage and this too became obsolete in the 1960’s and both this and the Seage apparatus were disassembled.

The first peal on the bells was on Tuesday 31st August 1886 and rung by a band of people from London, Oxford, Birmingham and Wrexham. It was of 5003 Grandsire Caters especially composed by Henry Johnson Sen. of Birmingham (of The St Martin’s Guild fame) comprising 109 bobs and two singles & was conducted by Francis Edward Dawe of London (later to become Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths 1888-1890 and 1891-1893 and first Hon Secretary of the Central council of Church Bell Ringers in 1893). The peal was rung in 3hr 29min and was the first 10-bell peal rung in Scotland. It was credited to The Ancient Society of College Youths and The Wrexham Society
Details are:

1  Joseph Field       Oxford      
2  Richard W Evans    Wrexham
3  Alfred Thomas      Birmingham  
4  Joseph Williams    Wrexham
5  John Ellis         Wrexham  
6  Francis E Dawe     London
7  Edward Rowland     Wrexham      
8  Thomas Newell      Wrexham
9  Edward Evans       Wrexham  
10 James Kendrick     Wrexham

This peal had taken over a year to organize, as it required the consent of the Dean and Chapter, the Lord Provost of the City, the City Council and other officials almost without number. Further, powerful influence had been bought to bear on the Chief Commissioner of Police to instruct his men to ignore complaints during the event. As it was, numerous messengers and constables turned up to enquire what was up. It was reported that “these obnoxious visitors came however, only to be told by a special man at the door, that full permission in every way had been obtained, and the ringers were not to be interfered with.”! Francis Dawe's account of the first peal later appeared in The Bell News and Ringers Record page 217 and continued in further editions on p 231 and p243. It is a remarkable and amazing account of what Dawe describes as “a brilliant affair”.