St Mary's Cathedral has a peal of 14 bells in the key of C# major, located in the central tower. The current peal is the third set of bells in the history of the Cathedral and was cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London in 1985. The bells range in weight from 281 kg to 1741 kg (or 34 cwt). They are the heaviest peal of 12 bells hung for change ringing in Australia.
The bells are rung and maintained by the St Mary's Basilica Society of Change Ringers. Formed in 1844, this is the oldest ringing society in Australia. Current members include people from a variety of backgrounds, aged in their 20s to 80s, both Catholics and non-Catholics, including several members with over 50 years' ringing experience.
The bells are hung on a wheel for full-circle ringing or change ringing, a style which developed in England in the 17th century. Each bell is rung by one person, so that a team or band of ringers is required to ring the bells together. The bells are rung according to number permutations (changes) rather than tunes and these may be standard 'methods' dating back many hundreds of years or more recent compositions. All are rung from memory.
The bells are rung for High Mass on Sundays and for major Feast Days during the year, as well as for weddings, christenings and funerals by arrangement. The bells also ring for civic occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day, and have been rung to mark important celebrations such as the Sydney Olympics and the Centenary of Federation.
People wishing to learn the art of change ringing are encouraged to contact the Society. It takes approximately 6 weeks to learn to handle a bell safely before you begin to ring with other people. You can then spend a lifetime advancing from simple to more complex ringing. You must be a minimum of 12 years of age, have a reasonable level of fitness, be able to comfortably climb 120 stairs to the central tower, and be available Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings.
Service Ringing: Sunday 9.50-10.30am, 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month 12-1pm
Practice Night: Thursday 6.15-.8.15pm
If you would like to visit the bell tower or enquire about learning to ring, please contact Murray-Luke Peard (Tower Captain) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For up-to-date information on ringing outside our usual times, news and events, please visit our Facebook page: St Mary's Cathedral Sydney Bell Ringers.
For more information about bell ringing in Australia and New Zealand, please visit the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers.
Download The Bells of St Mary's Cathedral brochure PDF (1.63 MB) [requires Adobe Reader to view]