The details presented in the table are transcribed from Chris Pickford's spreadsheet (see References), omitting one undated medieval bell, and have been slightly edited. Below the table are comments and analysis by the compiler of this page.
|set a new record for weight|
|hung for change ringing|
|destroyed or recast|
|bass bell of a carillon|
|bass bell of a chime|
|. . .||Ely Cathedral||56-0-08||1346||1662||Mediaeval|
|. . .||Canterbury Cathedral, "Great Dunstan"||72-2-00||1430||1499||Unknown|
|. . .||Gloucester Cathedral, "Great Peter"||59-3-14||1450||Unknown|
|. . .||Canterbury Cathedral, "Great Dunstan"||64-3-00||1499||1663||Bayle, John|
|. . .||Perth, St.John (bass bell of carillon)||28-0-14||1506||Waghevens, Peter|
|. . .||Lincoln Cathedral, "Great Tom" (old bell)||78-3-18||1610||1834||Oldfield & Newcombe|
|38.||Exeter Cathedral, "Peter"||80-0-00||1676||Purdue, T|
|15.||Oxford, "Great Tom"||124-2-00||1680||Hodson, Christopher|
|33.||London, S.Paul's Cathedral (hour bell)||82-2-11||1708||1710||Wightman, Philip|
|23.||London, S.Paul's Cathedral (hour bell)||96-0-00||1710||1716||Phelps, Richard|
|21.||London, S.Paul's Cathedral "Great Tom" (hour bell)||102-1-22||1716||Phelps, Richard|
|19.||Lincoln Cathedral, "Great Tom" (hour bell)||108-0-00||1835||Mears, Thomas|
|7.||York Minster, "Great Peter" (original bell)||215-0-00||1845||1927||Mears, C & G|
|3.||Westminster, Houses of Parliament, "Big Ben" (first one)||318-1-22||1856||1857||Warner|
|5.||Westminster, Houses of Parliament, "Big Ben" (hour bell)||270-3-15||1858||Mears, G & Co|
|37.||Leeds Town Hall, "Victoria" (hour bell, hung for swinging)||81-0-11||1859||Warner|
|29.||London, Italian Church, Hatton Garden||87-0-00||1862||Naylor Vickers|
|24.||Preston Town Hall (former hour bell)||96-0-00||1866||1927||Taylor|
|31.||Worcester Cathedral (hour bell)||82-3-24||1868||Taylor|
|34.||Bolton Town Hall (hour bell)||82-0-13||1872||Warner|
|28.||Bradford Town Hall (hour bell with chime)||87-0-07||1873||Taylor|
|14.||Manchester Town Hall, "Great Abel" (hour bell with chime)||129-0-00||1876||1882||Taylor|
|22.||Manchester Town Hall (no.20 bell of original chime)||100-0-00||1877||1936||Taylor|
|2.||London, S.Paul's Cathedral, "Great Paul"||334-2-19||1881||Taylor|
|11.||Manchester Town Hall, "Great Abel" (hour bell, and formerly bass bell of chime)||162-3-03||1882||Taylor|
|. . .||Abberley Hall, Worcs. (bass bell of former carillon)||78-2-00||1884||1939||Taylor|
|10.||Wigton, Highmoor, "Joe o Highmoor" (hour bell with chime)||176-0-00||1884||1920||Taylor|
|. . .||Aberdeen, St.Nicholas (former bass bell of carillon)||58-2-26||1885||1952||Van Aerschodt|
|17.||Newcastle-on-Tyne, Cathedral, "Major" (hour bell)||118-2-00||1891||Taylor|
|(18.)||Beverley Minster (Great Bell)||113-0-21||1900||1901||Taylor|
|20.||Downside Abbey, "Great Bede" (bourdon bell)||106-3-00||1900||Taylor|
|13.||Beverley Minster, "Great John" (bourdon)||140-3-01||1901||Taylor|
|16.||Birmingham University, The Chamberlain Tower, "Big Joe" or "Big Brum" (hour bell)||121-2-11||1908||Taylor|
|. . .||Cobh (Queenstown) R.C. Cathedral (bass bell of carillon)||67-2-22||1916||Taylor|
|32.||Loughborough, War Memorial (bass bell of carillon)||82-3-16||1923||Taylor|
|9.||Bristol University, "Great George"||191-1-19||1925||Taylor|
|36.||Preston Town Hall (former hour bell)||81-3-05||1927||1947||Taylor|
|6.||York Minster, "Great Peter"||216-2-22||1927||Taylor|
|8.||Nottingham Council House, "Little John" (hour bell)||207-0-27||1928||Taylor|
|30.||S Helen's, Lancs, S.Mary's Lowe House R.C. Church (bass bell of carillon)||84-2-20||1929||Taylor|
|. . .||Bournville Schools (bass bell of carillon)||64-0-18||1934||Gillett & Johnston|
|12.||Buckfast Abbey, "Hosannah" (bourdon)||149-0-18||1936||Taylor|
|35.||Liverpool Cathedral, "Emmanuel" (tenor)||82-0-11||1938||Mears & Stainbank|
|4.||Liverpool Cathedral, "Great George"||295-2-02||1940||Taylor|
|27.||Aberdeen, St.Nicholas (bass bell of carillon)||89-3-26||1952||Gillett & Johnston|
|25.||Ampleforth College, "Gregory John"||92-2-08||1961||Mears & Stainbank|
|. . .||Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre (bass bell of carillon)||71-1-13||1963||Taylor|
|26.||Liverpool RC Cathedral, "Matthew"||91-2-06||1966||Mears & Stainbank|
|1.||Olympic Stadium, London||450-3-24||2012||Whitechapel/Eijsbouts|
Records: The first four bells whose weights are highlighted in dark green in the table above probably were not actually the "heaviest bell cast to date" in the British Isles. Firstly, the 1680 Hodson bell is a recasting of a medieval bell of about six tons. Secondly, the 1708 Wightman bell was a recasting of a medieval bell which weighed 82-2-21. However, since those two medieval bells cannot be dated, they cannot be placed properly in the list above. The last four bells whose weights are highlighted in dark green in the table above undoubtedly were each the "heaviest bell cast to date" in the British Isles. The new record holder (as of 2012) for "heaviest bell in the British Isles" was cast in the Netherlands under subcontract from the Whitechapel foundry of London, and thus is arguably not the "heaviest bell cast to date" in this land.
Places: Until the middle of the 19th century, all of the great bells in this region went into cathedrals or monastic churches. ("Great Tom" of Oxford is a recasting of a bell that came from an abbey.) During the Victorian era, more than half of all the new great bells were cast for secular institutions - town halls and private estates. In the 20th century, the pendulum swung back toward the sacred institutions, though secular institutions continue to appear in the list. In the last 40 years, there have been no new great bells installed in this region, though a few have been cast for export to other parts of the world.
Geography: Only one of these great bells is outside of England - the bass bell of the carillon in Aberdeen, Scotland. Perhaps that's an indication that none of the other countries in these islands ever had the right combination of a sufficient concentration of wealth, an interest in bells (either religious or secular) and a desire to make a great public statement.
Founders: Before the 19th century, all of the great and near-great bells in this region were "one-off" efforts on the part of their makers. (Recastings in an attempt to make a better bell don't count.) In part this may be because the market for such bells was so thin during that period. In the mid-19th century, the London foundries of Warner and Mears (now Whitechapel) each made a couple of great bells, thus demonstrating their capability to do so. However, once Taylor began making great bells in 1866, that foundry effectively monopolized this market for three generations, producing not only the current record holder but also more than half of all the great bells now listed. Somewhat surprisingly, the Gillett & Johnston foundry, which exported more than 25 great bells to North America in less than two decades, produced only two for this region; both of them are bass bells of large carillons. The Whitechapel foundry (under the name Mears & Stainbank) returned to competition in this field in the mid-20th century.
Return to the indexes to great bells.
This page was created 2005/07/20, and last revised 2013/09/16.
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