Local Tower Information

Bristol Branch

Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association

Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol - click for a larger versionWills Memorial Building, University of Bristol



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Great George - the deepest-toned and sixth heaviest bell in the British Isles. Weighing in at over 9½ tons and measuring 8 ft 4 in across its mouth, no list of bells in Bristol would be complete without it. However, I will admit to being a little self-indulgent including it here as it's hung for swing-chiming, not full-circle ringing. I'm also rather fond of the photo I took of the tower...

The bell is housed inside the 215-foot tall Wills Memorial Building which was opened on 9th June 1925. It hangs just below the battlement level in the base of the octagonal stage of the tower, on a balanced cast-iron headstock in a concrete frame. Prior to tuning in 1924 it weighed 232-2-21, more than 11½ tons. Its original rivetted steel bridge-pattern headstock (replaced in 1992) weighed 49-2-21 by itself, and the clapper assembly (overhauled in 1985) weighed 21-0-16. The hours are struck on the bell by a hammer weighing 3-3-14, which in 1992 was turned 180 degrees to present an unworn face to the bell. At the same time the hammer's check spring was reset and a sophisticated control mechanism to operate the striking motor was installed to Taylors' specifications.

Access to the first floor of the tower is by a lift, the tiny Ringing Room being tucked into the north-east turret at this level. From here the bell can be swing-chimed, a feat normally only attempted on the death of a monarch or Chancellor of the University. The inch-thick bellrope takes an unusual route, travelling horizontally from the top of the 12-foot wheel into the upper stage of the turret before dropping into the Ringing Room.

The bells of Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
Great George191-1-17 100 inEb John Taylor & Co. 1924

Source: The Ringing World 4220 (page 251) and 4224 (page 368). Weight of bell before tuning from Christopher J. Pickford.

Where a bell's exact weight is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.