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Bow Bells

A brief history - continued

The tower now contains a new peal of twelve bells that were cast at the famous Whitechapel bellfoundry in 1956. Salvaged metal from the destroyed bells was reused but the overall weight of the bells was reduced. These bells were rung for the first time on 21 December 1961. They hang 100 feet (30 metres) above the ground in a bell frame made of Javanese Jang. The smallest bell weighs 5 cwt (285 kgs) and the biggest or tenor bell weighs almost 42 cwt (2135 kgs). Each bell has an inscription from a Psalm or New Testament canticle on it, and the first letters of each inscription spell D WHITTINGTON. Much of the cost of rebuilding the tower and recasting the bells was the gift of the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation and Holy Trinity Wall Street in New York.

The bells are frequently rung. A group of bellringers working in or near the City rings for the church's main services. The Ancient Society of College Youths, which was founded in 1637, still has a close association with the bells and its members regularly ring them. The other London ringing societies hold practices too, and ringers from all over the world have rung on the bells. Adjustable sound control ensures that the bells are heard for service ringing but are much quieter for recreational ringing. Little ringing takes place during the working day in consideration for our neighbours.

The first full peal of over 5000 changes was rung on 12 January 1731 by the College Youths. By 1939 only 65 peals had been rung in the tower. The first peal on the new bells was 5007 Stedman Cinques, again by the College Youths on 9 November 1962. Well over 300 peals have been rung on Bow Bells making St Mary-le-Bow the leading peal ringing tower in the City of London.

Thwaites and Reedes installed the electric clock mechanism in 1961 and Smith of Derby replaced the chiming mechanism in 1985. Its capabilities have subsequently been extended, and regular maintenance undertaken, but the Cumbria Clock Company . The unusual tune used to strike the quarters and the hour was composed by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford in 1904.

For many hundreds of years the bells of St Mary-le-Bow have proclaimed the church's presence in the heart of the City of London and they continue to do so today.