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Saint Jude’s Bells

By Dan Hutton on November 17, 2010 in Other

On a visit to England in 1860 Randwick Mayor Simeon Pearce ordered a peal of bells for St Jude’s church. The bells were cast from steel between 1860 and 1864 by Naylor Vickers and Co., Sheffield.

The tenor bell, which weighs over one and a half tonnes, bears the names of the seven donors and the words ‘St Jude’s, Randwick, N.S. Wales, 1864, Cast Steel’. Prior to the installation of the bells a special meeting of the St Jude’s Trustees and Church wardens was held in St Jude’s schoolroom and the rules and regulations for the formation of the St Jude’s Society of Bellringers were adopted. Foundation members were Richard Bamber, George Denning, Silas Dine, Samuel Hebblewhite, S.H. Pearce, James Pearce, Edward Price and Johnathan Vickery.

In 1961 the bells stopped ringing with a view to their restoration. Randwick Council opened an appeal to restore the bells and tower, as a tribute from local residents for the centenary of the church in 1965. Repairs were made to the bells and the tower. They were rededicated and a peal of ‘Yorkshire Surprise Major’ was rung by the Great Adventure Team II on October 2, 1965.

St Jude’s Church, Randwick is one of only ten Sydney churches that have bells hung for full circle ringing. The other churches are St Andrew’s Cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral, St Philip’s Church Hill (Wynyard), St Mark’s Darling Point, Christ Church St Laurence, St Benedict’s Broadway, St James’ Turramurra, St Paul’s Burwood and All Saints Parramatta. Most churches with bells hung for full circle ringing are Anglican.

As the bells were made of cast steel and are so close to the ocean they have slowly been corroding. The seventh bell had become so difficult to ring that only the fittest and most experienced of bell ringers could ring it.

St Jude’s and the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bell Ringers made an application to the Federal Government for a grant under the Federation Community Projects fund for money to replace the bells and their fittings and install a new steel frame in the bell tower. The causes of the problems were poor frame design dating back to the 1860s when the bells were first installed, the age of the wooden frame (approximately 135 years) on which the bells were hung an the old bell fittings, which were worn and rusted. The bell tower restoration was completed in 2001.

In the past the bells have been rung on the Queen’s Birthday, Anzac Day, Labour Day, Hiroshima Day, the Bicentenary and to mourn the passing of the Princess of Wales. The bells are also rung for weddings, funerals, Christmas Easter and most church services.

This month’s Local History article comes courtesy of Randwick City Council. If you would like to find out more
about the history of Randwick visit