Bells – Overview

The two western towers of York Minster contain between thema total of 56 bells, this being the largest number of bells in any English cathedral. There are no bells in the central tower.

All of the present bells were cast by Taylor’s of Loughborough at various points in the twentieth century. Taylor’s are considered by many to be the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of bellfounders, and the Minster bells are generally regarded as one of their masterpieces – both by bellringers and by the founders themselves.

The main ringing peal (in the South-West tower) consists of 14 bells, the tenor (heaviest bell) weighing 59-1-23 cwt. This is approximately 3 tonnes. These bells are hung in cast iron frame and are attached to wheels which turn through 360 degrees allowing the English form of ‘change ringing’ to take place.

The bell frame

Hung above the main ringing peal are the carillon bells. Unlike the ringing peal, these bells are attached to a keyboard in the ringing chamber – klavier – which only requires one person to operate it. Rather than swinging full-circle to make a sound, the clappers are hit against the side of the bell as the carilloner plays. The allows hymn tunes and melodies to be chimed.

The Carillon bells (picture by Barry Hale)