The Bells of Christchurch Cathedral,
Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch bells among the debris

Notes written in 1979 when the new peal of 13 bells was installed.

The Cathedral was officially opened on 1st November 1881. On the previous evening the bells were blessed when 150 people including four bishops, the Dean and Chapter and the Cathedral Choir were present. There was a team of ringers, members of the Christchurch Cathedral Society of Bellringers which had been formed on 19th November 1880; they had been practising on the bells in St. Paul’s Church, Papanui, until they rang the Cathedral bells on 9th September 1881. The tower and spire had been given by the Rhodes family. Mr. R. H. Rhodes gave eight of the original bells and Mr. E. P. W. Miles gave two. They were cast in the famous Taylors bell foundry at Loughborough, tested by Dr. Stainer, the famous organist of St.Paul’s Cathedral, and transported to New Zealand on a ship called “Waipa” of 1017 tons, arriving at Lyttelton on 30th July 1881.

The 13 new bells were also cast at Taylors of Loughborough; were carried to New Zealand on the good ship “Flinders Bay” and unpacked in front of the Cathedral on 8th November 1978 and after urgent work, rung for the first time on Christmas Day, hanging on the massive steel frame which has replaced the worn-out oaken one of 1881. Three of the new bells are in memory of Archbishop Julius, one given by the ringers, and bell number 11 records the magnificent work of Mr. James Collins who played the leading part in raising the half million dollars for the Cathedral Restoration Appeal.

Sadly, because most of our historical documents and information about the bells was stored in the tower, much has been buried in the debris, but we did manage to find a copy of this publicity brochure from 1979.

Treble: 4cwt, 3qr
Given by Sir Robert Kerridge
2: 4cwt, 3qr, 21lb
  In memory of Sir Arthur and Lady Sims
3:  5cwt, 1qr
  In memory of Archbishop Julius
4: Julius 5cwt, 1qr, 14lb
  We, two little bells to complete the chime
Were nearly left out too late,
When MILES to the rescue, but just in time
Added us onto the eight.
5: Julius 5cwt, 3qr, 14lb
6: 6cwt, 2qr
  Given by George and Janet Armitage in memory of George Whitefield Armitage 1868-1943 and George Whitfield Armitage 1936-1957
Flat 6: 6cwt, 3qr, 21lb
  At times when ringers are so few
That only eight bells can be rung
The lighter bells are much preferred
On twelve this cannot well be done
For bells to sound both good and true
A half-tone must in sixth place stand
This is the reason I was cast
And given by the ringing band.
7:  7cwt, 14lb
  Given by Peter Skellerup and family
8: 8cwt, 1qr, 14lb
  Given by R.H.Stewart and family
9: Stewart 10cwt, 1qr
10: Underhill 12cwt, 3qr
11: James Collins 17cwt, 3qr
Tenor: 25cwt
Through all the ROADS of life, the best
We’ll strive to be your guide;
And let our notes do your behest
By tolling far and wide.
We’ve crossed the seas to this fair land,
To do GOD all the honour,
From clime to clime we’ll ring our chime,
And tell of RHODES the donor.