Why the bells will be ring­ing at cathe­dral

The Chronicle - - Nostalgia -

TO­MOR­ROW, 100 years on from the Ar­mistice, bells will ring out in uni­son from churches and cathe­drals in vil­lages, towns and cities across the coun­try.

A cen­tury ago, church bells across the UK re­mained re­stricted dur­ing World War I and only rang freely once Ar­mistice was de­clared on Novem­ber 11, 1918.

The great bells of New­cas­tle Cathe­dral were rung on that mo­men­tous day.

And to­mor­row they will once again sound out ju­bi­lantly across the city to mark the cen­te­nary of the end of the con­flict.

Many bell ringers joined the war ef­fort, and many lost their lives. Just af­ter the war, the Cen­tral Coun­cil of Church Bell Ringers wrote to all bell tow­ers to com­pile the Roll of Hon­our. In to­tal, 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives in the con­flict.

Over the last four years of com­mem­o­ra­tions, the bell ringers of New­cas­tle Cathe­dral have been mark­ing the lives of those bell ringers lost in the Great War by ring­ing for an hour on the day (and, where known, the ac­tual time) th­ese brave souls were taken.

The Durham and New­cas­tle Dioce­san As­so­ci­a­tion of Change Ringers lost over 40 men. They are com­mem­o­rated on a fine brass memo­rial at the West End of the Cathe­dral.

This has been part of the Ring­ing Remembers na­tional ini­tia­tive to re­mem­ber those ringers who died, and to re­cruit 1,400 new ringers to en­sure this great tra­di­tion is car­ried on.

To hon­our the mem­ory of ALL those fallen in the con­flict, this Sun­day the bells of New­cas­tle Cathe­dral will once again be rung in a full peal (12pm – 4pm) which is ex­actly the same as the peal on Novem­ber 11, 1918 (it is called a St­ed­man Cinque, which uses 11 bells).

The bell ring­ing tra­di­tion at New­cas­tle Cathe­dral goes back hun­dreds of years and there were cer­tainly bells in the iconic Lantern Tower by the 15th cen­tury. The old­est bell was cast be­tween 1385 and 1418 and is called Michael. It is the bell rung out for all oc­ca­sions of na­tional mourn­ing or re­joic­ing.

The Lantern Tower with its in­cred­i­ble and in­tri­cate de­sign was the tallest land­mark in the town for cen­turies and was de­signed to be a bea­con for ships com­ing up the Tyne.

By the mid­dle of the 18th cen­tury, the renowned lo­cal his­to­rian Henry Bourne said the bells “have a bold and no­ble sound, and yet an ex­ceed­ingly sweet and har­mo­nious one”. There are cur­rently 13 ring­ing bells and three fif­teenth cen­tury ones. The big­gest bell, The Ma­jor, weighs nearly 6 tonnes!

Today, the bells at New­cas­tle are rung by the New­cas­tle Guild, mem­bers of the Durham and New­cas­tle Dioce­san As­so­ci­a­tion of Change Ringers. They are all vol­un­teers and range in age from 20s to 93 – the 100-plus steps to the bell ring­ing cham­ber keeps them fit! ■■Events at New­cas­tle Cathe­dral to­mor­row:

6am: For the early birds – a Northum­brian Piper will play in the Cathe­dral as part of the na­tional “Bat­tle’s Over” ini­tia­tive mark­ing the mo­ment the Ar­mistice was signed. (En­trance through the Cathe­dral’s Great West Doors from 5.50am. Cer­e­mony 10 min­utes long. All wel­come)

10am: Re­mem­brance Sun­day Ser­vice of Holy Com­mu­nion, with bu­gler play­ing for Act of Re­mem­brance and a two-minute si­lence at 11am.

Noon un­til 4pm: Bell peal to mark Ar­mistice Day (the same peal that was rung at New­cas­tle Cathe­dral the day the Ar­mistice was an­nounced in 1918).

4pm: Sun­set Act of Re­mem­brance and Choral Even­song, with bu­gler play­ing Last Post and Reveille from the top of the Cathe­dral Tower. Please wrap up warm, and gather in Cathe­dral Square for 4pm. The ser­vice will con­tinue in the Cathe­dral.

Fi­nally: Vis­i­tors are wel­come dur­ing open­ing hours, to come in and see the poignant “There but Not There” in­stal­la­tion be­neath the Reg­i­men­tal Colours – a trib­ute to those of the Great War who did not re­turn.

The lantern tower of New­cas­tle Cathe­dral Cathe­dral bells

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