Minster bells will toll again in Sunderland

Reverand Stephen Taylor (left) and Sunderland Minster Clock Tower Captain, David Cox.
Reverand Stephen Taylor (left) and Sunderland Minster Clock Tower Captain, David Cox.
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SUNDERLAND’S Minster bells are to ring through the city once more.

The bells were silenced years ago and the church’s three-faced clock stopped ticking in 2009 when its workings were moved to allow access to fix the chimes.

Now the company carrying out the work has told the Echo it hopes to have completed the repair in about a month.

The Minster’s tower captain, David Cox, said: “The only way to access the bells was to take out the workings of the clock.

“The clock is electric. Each face is attached to a rod through the middle of the tower.

The bells are above the clock workings, which are currently in storage. There’s no point in putting them back until the bells are finished.

“We’re in the hands of Pembleton’s who are doing the work.”

The bells ceased pealing after their rickety old frame started to move, putting two of the chimes out of action and sparking safety fears about using the rest.

With the help of the Friends of Sunderland Minister, donations from the Echo-backed Minster Peals Appeal and a legacy donation from former bell-ringer Ann Todd, the Minster managed to scrape together the estimated £50,000 to right the problems.

The eight bells were removed in June 2009 and were sent to a firm based near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, to be refurbished.

Two new bells were ordered from a company in Whitechapel in London – one of only two manufacturers in the country.

The new bell frame, made of steel, will be set at a different height in the tower to take some of the strain off the structure – parts of which date back to the 13th century.

The company working on the old bells say that there were unforeseen problems.

Owner, Fred Pembleton, said: “We had a lot of trouble with casting and that put us back quite a bit. The delay was due to problems with casting the frame, which was by a company in Mansfield.

“We’ve got everything now, so it shouldn’t be long before the bells are back. Off the top of my head, it should be about a month to six weeks.”

The bells have rang out from Sunderland Minster for centuries, but the chimes have not been refurbished since the 1930s.

Mr Cox said: “When the bells were originally put in in 1810 there were six. The two new bells have been cast and are with the others in Derbyshire and they were built by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, who made Big Ben.”

Mr Cox said if the Minster team had known how long the bells would take to repair, the clock workings may have been re-installed.

But he added: “It’s not something you can predict and it’s taken much longer than we thought.”