Sunday 24 March 2013

Bells on Sunday

It's good news (and pleasingly retroprogressive) that Notre Dame de Paris now has a decent sets of bells to ring out over the city in harmonies not heard since the original bells - all but Emmanuel, the great bourdon bell - were broken up and melted down during the French Revolution. The replacement bells that were hung in the 19th century were a sorry, out-of-tune substitute - but perhaps not as sorry and out-of-tune as Britain's most notorious peal of bells, those of St Mary's Church in Moseley, Birmingham. Made, in a spirit of rash experimentalism, out of Sheffield steel, they were presented to the church that is now the Steel City's Roman Catholic cathedral. Such was the insufferable noise they made that they were soon taken down, replaced with properly constituted bells and sold on to a businessman, who presented them to St Mary's. They soon fell silent there too and hung for many years rusting, out of tune and unused (and, in the case of the tenor bell, falling from the tower). Happily, the 'worst bells in Britain' have now been replaced - but not before a refurbishment in the 1980s restored them briefly to use. Their swansong in 1991 was recorded for posterity to wonder at. If you can stand it, you can listen to them clanging out their last in this faintly sinister video. The bells, the bells...


  1. that video, not just "faintly sinister", downright scary...give the maker a mini-oscar!

  2. How very odd - my daughter's bedroom window overlooks St Mary's in Moseley. She moved there a few months ago. She has a lovely tranquil view over the church and its grounds. I've sent her the link. Your blog is full of surprises, Mr Nigeness!