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AFTER nearly 140 years of service it comes as no surprise that the famous bells of St Paul’s are in need of a good old fashioned spring clean. And following the traditional New Year peal, the 12 bells have been silenced ahead...

AFTER nearly 140 years of service it comes as no surprise that the famous bells of St Paul’s are in need of a good old fashioned spring clean.

And following the traditional New Year peal, the 12 bells have been silenced ahead of the most major restoration in their history.

Heading back to where they were originally cast in 1878 – the foundry of John Taylor & Co in Loughborough – they will be cleaned to remove a thick layer of grime and fitted with new moving parts to improve their performance.

While out of commission, the cathedral’s timber bellframe will be strengthened to preserve it for years to come. Meanwhile, the ringing room will be fitted with better lighting, and the historic records of the peals will be restored, with fresh additions marking the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the three Olympic and Paralympic Marathons in 2012.

This will only be the third time in their lifespan that the bells have been silent for any length of time, the previous occasions being the two World Wars and a period from 1925 to 1930 when the cathedral itself was closed for major building works.

However, the towers won’t be entirely silent, as the clock bells, including Great Tom, in the south west tower will continue to sound, as will the original service bell which dates from 1700.

Canon Michael Hampel, precentor of St Paul’s, said:

“The call to worship of bells is a sound that threads itself through the history of western Christianity and is part of the fabric of the British nation. This exciting project will ensure that the bells of St Paul’s continue to signal the Church’s presence to the City and to the world.”

The bells should return to ring out on their 140th birthday on 1 November.

Cover image by Eluveitie (Creative Commons).

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