New bells ring out at St Albans Abbey

NEW bells at St Albans Abbey were consecrated during a special celebratory service.

The 13 bells had arrived just days before the event which marked the culmination of more than four decades of planning and fundraising.

The service began with a performance by the Hertford County Association of Change Ringers and the bells were lined up down the centre of the nave, with the largest tenor bell, Alban – which weighs the equivalent of nine baby elephants – at the east end, and the smallest sharp second bell, Philip, at the west end.

More than 550 people attended the service on Saturday, September 4, which included elements dating back to the eight century and at which the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, anointed and censed - perfumed with incense - each bell.

During his address the Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, explained that the bells were given a saint’s name and then the saint became the “patron” of it.

He said: “Our tenor bell is Alban, who of course must be the greatest – and then the twelve apostles.”

He continued: “Ringing a bell to call people to worship seems an obvious enough idea, but the faithful always seem to have felt there was more to bells than just that. The thing about bells is, they have a voice. They have character – you might almost say personality. And there is something about the sound itself that suggests transcendence, a sense of eternity.”

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Bells have rung at the Abbey since the current building was built in the eleventh century and some of the 12 bells in use until April this year dated back to 1699 and the others from 1935.

The previous 12 bells ceased to work as a complete instrument and the deterioration of the fittings and movement of the bell frame meant they became difficult to ring and hard for new bell ringers to use.

The new bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London and were paid for by ongoing fundraising which first started more than 40 years ago following a bequest from bell ringer Reginald Ewer.