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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Shrewsbury Cathedral bell to toll again after a silence of half a century

 

The peal of a bell forged just months after the end of the Crimean War is to be heard across Shrewsbury once again thanks to state-of-the-art restoration work.

The bell at Shrewsbury Cathedral was cast in June 1856 but it has not rang out for about 50 years after wear and tear stopped it from swinging and rendered its iron clapper immovable.

But in a month-long project under way at the mother church of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, the bell is being repaired, cleaned and restored and also refitted with an advanced automated ringing system.

The tolling system will allow clergy and Cathedral officials to make the bell chime at the simple touch of a button from a remote control key fob which can be programmed far in advance.

The repair project is being carried out by John Taylor Bellfounders in Loughborough, the Leicestershire firm that made the bell just three months after the Treaty of Paris ended the Crimean War against Russia.

The work involves removing and repairing the bell, sandblast-cleaning it and checking for and filling cracks, before it is reinstalled on new fittings.

Besides the automated ringing system, a rope will also be attached so the bell may be tolled manually if necessary.

Before the bell is hoisted up and fastened above the roof to ring out once more, it will be blessed by the Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, during a ceremony at the Cathedral.

The bell was first commissioned by Victorian architect Edward Welby Pugin and installed in the year of the opening of the Cathedral, one of the smallest in Britain.

Records show that the bell-wheel became detached from its headstock in 1973, meaning that the bell could not swing.

The clapper was by then already displaced at an angle “out of flight” with its intended direction.

The repair of the bell is among a range of new projects to recover the full beauty of the Cathedral and to enhance its mission of evangelisation.

The Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, said: “The sound of church bells is one of the characteristics of Shrewsbury.

“I am pleased the bell of Shrewsbury Cathedral is being restored to gently ring out again as part of the Cathedral’s renewal.

“It will ring together with all the bells of the town inviting us to lift up our hearts in Christian hope and prayer.”

Richard Keddie, development officer for Shrewsbury Cathedral, said: “This is a great occasion for Shrewsbury Cathedral and one which will enhance the fabric and essence of this beautiful place of worship.

“Future-proofing the bell and adopting the new automated tolling system will certainly add to the cathedral’s presence once again within the town and will also be extremely useful for clergy requiring control of the bell for use at various services held here.”

 

 

The Cathedral Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Peter of Alcantara was begun in 1853 and opened by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman in 1856.

The original design for the Cathedral was drawn up by Augustus Welby Pugin at the request of John Talbot, the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury.

Both the Earl and AW Pugin died in 1852 before the Cathedral was off the drawing board.

But the Earl’s 20 year-old-heir, Bertram, was happy to continue the project and turned to Pugin’s eldest son, Edward, to complete his father’s work. Bertram died, just 23 years old, two months before the Cathedral was completed.

Today the Cathedral is home to a thriving parish community as well as serving the diocese as the mother church. It is from his Cathedra in the Cathedral that Bishop Davies presides over the Diocese of Shrewsbury, preaching, teaching and celebrating the sacraments.

One of the greatest treasures of the Cathedral is the stained glass.

Seven of the windows are masterpieces in the Arts and Crafts tradition by Margaret Rope, an artist born in Shrewsbury in 1882 who later became a Carmelite nun, but who continued to design and paint glass for many commissions both in the UK and abroad.

Visitors travel great distances to see her work in Shrewsbury Cathedral.

 

Photos by Simon Caldwell and Richard Crawford