THE BELLS, THE BELLS
The original peal of 8 bells was presented to St. Thomas' by Rev. R. Cattley in 1852. A fire in the tower on 11th February 1912 destroyed them. However, 6 were recast and replaced later that year. The final 2 bells were added in 1926 to complete the octave.
In the church Year Book of 1928 - 29 there is an article which states that, 'the eight bells are cast of best quality bell-metal, copper and tin alloy and are accurately tuned to equal temperament on Messrs. Taylor's special "true harmonic" system, which, stated briefly, means that the overtones, or harmonics, of the bells are controlled so as to bear a definite musical relationship to the fundamental tone; this ensures great sweetness and purity of tonal effect'.
The note and weight of each of the eight bells is as follows :-
NOTE WEIGHT IN Cwt APPROX WEIGHT IN Kg
12 cwt 3 qrs 7 lb
9 cwt 0 qrs 22 lb
7 cwt 0 qrs 2 lb
5 cwt 2 qrs 24 lb
4 cwt 1 qrs 6 lb
3 cwt 2 qrs 5 lb
3 cwt 1 qrs 7 lb
3 cwt 0 qrs 0 lb
The peal is hung stationary (i.e., not to swing) in a steel framework, and the bells are played by one person by means of a Chiming Apparatus from a manual. (See photos below)
Two of the bells bear an inscription as follows.
The one on the Largest Bells reads :-
A PEAL OF BELLS WAS PRESENTED TO THIS
CHURCH IN 1852 BY REV. R. CATTLEY, CURATE
OF THIS PARISH.
DESTROYED BY FIRE, 11TH FEBRUARY, 1912.
RECAST BY JOHN TAYLOR & CO., LOUGHBOROUGH.
ERNEST B. SAVAGE, VICAR.
A. M. JACKSON, CHURCHWARDENS.
GOD BLESS THIS CHURCH AND PARISH
Whilst the inscription on the smallest bell reads :-
THE TWO SMALLER BELLS
TO COMPLETE THE OCTAVE WERE
PRESENTED IN 1926 BY HIS WIFE
AND FAMILY IN MEMORY OF
CHURCHWARDN OF THIS CHURCH, 1919 to 1926
N. J. POOLE, VICAR
E. P. BROADHEAD, CHURCHWARDENS.
In The Manx Church Magazine of 1891 it is reported that the Rev. Richard Cattley was curate of Onchan 1851 - 1854 but was living in Douglas and assisting the Rev. W Simpson, chaplain of St. Thomas'. In 1852 his son was born and as a thank Offering he presented the Peal of Bells.
The report also states that two years later he, 'met with such marked discourtesy from a Customs House Officer on the pier, he could not contemplate the risk of a repetition - so left the Island permanently, although he was building a house in Victoria Road at the time, as a residence'.
He later became a Minor Canon of Worcester Cathedral. He died in 1903 and at the hour of his funeral at Worcester, one of the Bells of St. Thomas' was tolled.
(A more detailed account of the original 1852 peal of bells can be found towards the end of this page).
Video of St. Thomas' Tower Bells and Clock
The following poem written by "A Visitor" about the St. Thomas' Church Bells was printed in "The Manx Sun" Newspaper on September 18th 1880 with the following letter :
Sir, - It was my good fortune when in Douglas to hear the beautiful bells of ST. Thomas's Church rung - so justly admired for their sweet notes. I have listened to many pleasant peals in Cathedral and village Church tower, but few have filled the air with sweeter music than the bonny bells of Douglas. If the enclosed lines on the above are worthy a place in your valuable paper, they are at you disposal.
Thanking you for your favours,
I am, yours faithfully,
Sept 13, 1880 A VISITOR
THE BELLS OF ST. THOMAS'S CHURCH, DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN.
What bells are those whose welcome music sounds across the bay,
And on the height of Banks's (sic) Howe tell of the Sabbath Day?
The sun far in the western sky smiles on the sea at rest,
'Tis eventide, and all is still upon the ocean's breast.
How sweet the notes come o'er the bay borne on the evening air;
Their heavenly peals in sweetest tunes proclaim the hour of prayer
Along the slopes and cliffs surrounding Douglas loam,
Like songs of angels sweet and clear filling each pleasant home.
And through the narrow winding streets built in olden times,
Right in the heart of Douglas, how sweet the welcome chimes
Float round about the cottages where contentment dwells,
Giving joy to many a heart, ye bonny Douglas bells.
And in the chamber of the sick, where silence reigns around,*
Sufferers forgot their weary pains whilst listening to your sounds;
There is a charm in your sweet notes that pain and anguish quells,
Your soothing strains allay their pains, ye sweet-toned Douglas bells.
How pleasant to the mariner must you music be
When wafted by the passing breeze your tunes float out to sea
And greet him as he nears the port where wife or sweetheart dwells,
'Tis then with merry heart he hails the peal of Douglas bells.
Sweetly ring ye glorious bells, and let your music roll
Through the ancient Market-place (sic) cheering many a soul,
Inviting to the house of prayer stranger and native born,
With your ever welcome peals upon the Sabbath morn.
Adieu, dear bells, I leave you now for home and fatherland,
Though fain I still would linger on Mona's lovely strand,
And listen to your heavenly peals rung on the Sabbath Day,
Reaching over Douglas Town and far across the bay.
(* "The chamber of the sick" refers to the original Noble's Hospital at the top of Crellin's Hill which is now the Manx Museum building).
THE BELLS OF ST. THOMAS' CHURCH 1852 TO 1912
Thanks to an email from Ernie de Legh-Runciman, Ringing Master at St. George's Church, Douglas some new information about the original St. Thomas' bells has come to light. In his email Ernie stated that records on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers showed that a performance of Grandsire Triples (some articles refer to Grandaire Trebles) had been played on the peal of 8 bells at St. Thomas' on the 6th December 1852. This was the first recorded peal on the Isle of Man and predates peals at Peel and St. Georges. He also noted that the book 'Manx Bells' by R. W. M. Clouston also states that a peal of 8 bells was installed in 1852.
An article in 'The Manx Sun' newspaper of 8th May 1852 details the early history of the original St. Thomas' bells.
"A gentleman who has lately taken up residence on the Island has offered to present Douglas and neighbourhood with a fine peal of eight bells and has fixed on St. Thomas' Church, Douglas as the most appropriate place for their erection. The gentleman is the Rev. R. Cattley, curate of Kirk Onchan, who assisted in the parish of St. Thomas'."
The bells were cast by John Murphy of Dublin. Murphy had won a prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851 which had been held in the Chrystal Palace, London. The original cost was estimated to be £400 plus a further £100 for their fitting in St. Thomas'. At that time there were no other peals of bells on the Island.
The Loughborough Foundry also tendered unsuccessfully for the contract and their records show that John Taylor & Co. quoted, in April 1852, for a ring of eight bells, Tenor 7 1/2 cwt and a total of 40 cwt for £396 delivered to Liverpool.
The Manx Sun of 5th June reported that the foundations of the tower at St. Thomas' were being strengthened so as to be suitable for a ring of eight bells. A condition of the gift stated that the sum of £130 which was required to hang them must be raised by 1st July 1852. However, the Manx Sun on 3rd July reported that only £100 had been raised by the deadline but that the donor had extended his offer.
Again, The Manx Sun on the 21st of August 1852 reported that the trebles and tenor bells had been cast at the foundry of John Murphy and that they did not require any tuning, already being perfect notes.
By October 23rd 1852 the octave had arrived in Douglas aboard the schooner 'Superior' and was in the process of being installed in the tower at St. Thomas'.
On December 3rd 1852 a team of 9 ringers from Liverpool arrived aboard 'King Orry'. They first rang the bells on Saturday 4th December 1852. They rang again before and after the morning and afternoon services on the Sunday. On Monday 6th December they rang another peal but unfortunately a rope broke after one and a half hours of ringing. On Tuesday 7th December 1852 they were more successful and in 2 hours and 47 minutes they rang a peal of 5,040 changes of Grandsire Triples conducted by Edward Heron. The Mona's Herald of 16.12.1852 pointed out that, '...this may be looked upon as no inconsiderable novelty'.
The band was:
Treble - Edward Heron (Conductor); Second - William Evans Jnr.; Third - William Howard;
Fourth - John Grindrod; Fifth - Edward Davies; Sixth - Richard Cross; Seventh - Hugh Walmsley;
Tenor - John Burkenshaw. Others who did not take part were William Evans Snr. and Frederick Powell.
The larger bells were considered to be perfect in tone and harmony but the three trebles required '...certain alterations but these are in hand'. The newspaper also stated that '...this was the first tower bell peal to be rung on the Island.'
The trouble with the lighter bells seems to have persisted as in 1888 when another band of ringers visited the Island they only rang on six bells at St. Thomas'. The article below also notes that the chimes consisted of only 6 bells in 1889 when the new chiming apparatus was installed.
The 'Isle of Man Times' on Saturday April 27th 1889 printed a lengthy article under the headline, "New Chimes at St. Thomas Church" The article begins, 'The new chimes which have been attached to the bells at St. Thomas' Church were started by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Sodor and Man on Monday afternoon. They have been attached as a consequence of a mistake which was made when the bells were rehung a few years ago, which when the bells were swung, rendered the tower somewhat unsafe. Now the six bell have been made stationary, and the chiming apparatus can be worked by one man. It may be stated that the chimes have been attached to the clock as a memento of the Queen's Jubilee. the machinery on which the chimes depend for their action is of an ingenious character, but exceedingly simple in its working, being in point of fact very much on the same principle as an ordinary music box'.
The Article goes on to say that the mechanism was constructed by Messrs John Smith & Sons of the Midland Clock Works in Derby. The cost was about £55 with a further £10 required to complete the work. The chimes are commonly known as, "the Cambridge quarter chimes" named after those first erected at Cambridge University in 1780. The local work was carried out by builder James Cowle.
The article then continues, '... it may be observed that the peal, which consists of six bells, at St. Thomas. was originally presented by the Rev. Richard Cattley years ago, when that gentleman was curate at the church, but who is now a Canon at Worcester Cathedral, and a great authority on campanology. We may likewise remark that the chimes are worked in connection with the clock, and at each quarter hour a chime is rung on the bells similar to that rung on the bells at Manchester Town Hall'.
Many local dignitaries of the time attended the service including Deemster Gill, Mr. J. A. Mylrea MHK, Mr. T. C. Callow JP, Mr F. M. Ross JP, Mr. W. Isdale* and others. The bishop was introduced by the Rev E. B. Savage. The bishop started the chimes at three o clock and then gave an address to the assembled congregation.
The Murphy bells were destroyed in the tower fire of 1912. Six were recast and rehung later that year and the remaining two bells, to make up the octave, were added in 1926 in memory of Edwin Creer. It is this set, along with the chiming apparatus, which is still in use today.
* Mr William Isdale was the Postmaster General and a prominent educational reformer on the Isle of Man.
Liverpool Bellringers tune up St. Thomas'.
The PDF below is a copy of a newspaper article from May 2001 about a group of ringers who visited the island. They rang the St. Thomas Bells and kindly re-roped them.