The Bells of St. Jude’s
The bells of St. Jude’s were cast in 1906 by founders Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London, England. The Whitechapel Foundry, established in 1570 is known as one of the preeminent church bell foundries and operated continuously until about 2015.
A Bell Committee was formed by the Reverend T.G. Wallace, rector at the time, to oversee the procurement of a ring of bells. After considerable correspondence with the foundry as to whether it be 6, 8, or 10 bells, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed on May 9, 1906, for the casting of 8 bells, with the intention of ordering an additional 2 bells in the future. The bells were to be stationary and rung with what is known as an Ellacombe apparatus, with the exception of the largest tenor bell which was to have fittings to swing full circle as in English change bell ringing. The cost of the 8 bells was £687-8-3 including freight. The other 2 bells were to be a flat 2nd and a note above the treble bell. Prior to casting, the flat 2nd was ordered, and paid for by a parishioner, Mrs. Walker Smith, at a cost of £51-8-6. The note above the treble was never ordered, and thus, there are 9 bells in the tower. The chime stand still has the ratchet and spot for that additional bell. The weights and notes of the bells, expressed in the term “hundredweight” , being 112 pounds, is as follows:
Tenor 15-1-11 Note F
7th. 11-0-24 Note G
6th. 9-1-0 Note A
5th. 8-1-3 Note B
4th. 6-2-21 Note C
3rd. 5-3-21 Note D
Flat 2nd. 5-2-0 Note Eb
2nd. 5-0-26 Note E
Treble. 4-3-6 Note F
The total weight of the 9 bells is 72-1-0 hundredweight, which is just over 4 tons of the “best bell metal, pure copper and tin” as stated in the 1906 Memorandum of Agreement. The bells were cast by September 1906 and the founders remarked in a letter to the Reverend Wallace that the bells “were much admired whilst at the foundry”. The bells and fittings were packed in 23 crates and shipped on September 15, 1906 from London via the Grand Trunk Railway System aboard the SS Hungarian through to Montreal. The frame and bells were installed upon arrival in Oakville by local tradesmen. The Memorandum of Agreement provided a guarantee for a period of 5 years and that the bells would be in perfect tune.
Although the bells were cast as they would have been for full circle English style change ringing, the decision to have only the tenor swing was perhaps due to the presumed inability of the tower to withstand the tremendous forces exerted by bells being rung full circle. As well, there most likely would not have been sufficient experienced change ringers, if any, in Oakville or nearby. Even now there are only 7 towers in Canada with full circle change ringing bells. The plain brass bearings and gudgeons of the St. Jude’s tenor bell were cleaned up and a new rope purchased from England in the late 1990’s, and with the guidance of experienced ringers from the newly installed 12 change bells in St. James Cathedral, Toronto, the tenor was rung up, perhaps for the first time since it was installed. A 15 hundredweight bell is what ringers would call a heavy bell, and thus, it’s sound when rung full circle is particularly deep and rich.
The bells continue to be rung regularly, mostly prior to Sunday services, when hymn tunes are chimed. Changes are also rung leading up to the service, which is the rapid ringing of 8 of the bells in a continuously changing order. A former lifelong parishioner referred to this as the “hurry bells”, by which she meant that if she heard them while still walking on her way to church she had better hurry up! The changes are also rung for weddings and on occasion at a Thanksgiving for Life service. The tenor can be fitted with a muffle on one side of the clapper and tolled at funerals, striking one blow for each year of the age of the deceased.
The bells of St. Jude’s have rung out joyously in happy times, sombrely in times less so, as a call to worship, and as a voice of St. Jude’s to the surrounding community.
Ringing the Bells of St. Jude’s Church
The set of 9 bells is rung from what is known as an Ellacombe apparatus which allows a rope to be pulled outwards from a wooden stand and via a series of pulleys, which pulls a clapper against the inside of the bow of the bell. With the octave plus a flat second bell, a good selection of hymn tunes can be rung. The ropes must be pulled sharply to allow the clappers to strike, and then immediately released so as to prevent chattering on the bell which can lead to a crack in the bell. It is quite possible for anyone to learn to ring the hymn tunes, with some basic instruction and several practice sessions. A knowledge of the hymn tunes that can be rung is most helpful and proficiency can be acquired within short order.
The bells were cast in 1906 as a ring of 8 English change ringing bells, plus an additional flat second bell. Only the largest bell, the tenor, was fitted with full circle ringing apparatus. Unlike ringing the stationary bells from the Ellacombe stand, ringing a bell full circle is a skill that takes several months of one on one training with an experienced ringer. The sound of English change ringing can be replicated to a degree on the St. Jude’s bells by pulling the ropes, first in descending order known as rounds, and then by going into the changes whereby each of the 8 bells is rung once through in a varying order each time. In fact it was the Reverend Ellacombe in England who in 1821 devised his apparatus in order to have the changes rung without relying on the unruly band of ringers. The intent is to have the bells ring very rapidly in a changing order, by only one ringer. As in hymn tune ringing, this can be learnt with a minimum of practice. The order of the changes is very intentional in true change ringing, but in approximating the changes on the St. Jude’s bells, we aim for speed rather than a set order.
The Tower Clock of St. Jude’s Church
The tower clock was made by J.W. Benson Ltd. of Ludgate Hill, London, England in 1906. J.W. Benson Ltd. was established in 1749 and held special warrants to Queen Victoria, and the Prince of Wales, and was by special appointment to the King of Greece, the Emperor of Russia, the King of Portugal, and the King of Siam. The estimate for the clock was prepared on May 16, 1906, for £110 including freight on the S.S. Pomeranian, and train through to Oakville Station.
The clock has a copper dial on the north face of the tower, 5 feet in diameter, painted black, with the figures and hands guilded with “extra thick gold leaf of English make”. The escapement mechanism is a Graham’s deadbeat, invented in 1715. It has been the escapement of choice in almost all fine pendulum clocks since then. The pendulum rod has a heavy bob with brass adjusting work and beats one and a quarter seconds of time. The bob is adjusted very minutely up or down in accordance with seasonal temperature changes to offset the expansion and contraction of the pendulum rod. There is a striking train for the hours only, consisting of a rack repeating work and adjustable fly with brass fans for regulating the timing of the blows on the bell. The hammer is lifted by camm fitted on the main wheel and strikes on the outside bow of the tenor bell, with a steel counter spring to prevent chattering.
The clock is known as an 8 day clock as it requires winding by hand crank, once a week, but has sufficient reserve to last an additional day if the clock keeper is tardy. The striking train was not made to be silenced at night, but a mechanism is now fitted to the hammer which allows it to be raised to prevent striking during the late evening through early morning hours.
The clock is slightly temperamental during very cold winter weather, or exceptionally high winds which can cause a counter effect on the pendulum, but otherwise, has been running continuously since installation in 1906.