St Mark’s is set to ring in a new century of its historic bells
Celebrations are planned at St. Mark’s Church in Smith’s next weekend to honour 100 years of bell ringing at the church.
The bells were first suggested by Jeremiah Scott Pearman as a way to honour the church’s former pastor, Archdeacon George Tucker, who had served the Smith’s Parish community for forty years and died in 1908. The church quickly agreed and began raising the funds to purchase and install the first chime bells in Bermuda.
The chime, according to church member Al Spearing, consists of ten cast bronze bells, which were cast by John Taylor Bellfounders in Loughborough, Leicestershire. The bells range in size from 18 inches in diameter and a weight of a mere 126 pounds, to the largest at 37-and-one-quarter inches and a weight of 1011 pounds.
Each bell has a different note from the key of B-flat minor, and is played on a clavier. Players simply push the numbered levers, which, when depressed, pull the wires, and, in turn, the clapper of the bell. Bell players can follow simple music notations to play hymns and songs.
In addition to the chimes, there is a great bell on a swing wheel, which sits on top of the ten-bell frame. It was cast by the Memeely Bellfoundry in West Troy, New York in 1879 and presented to the church by W.F.M. Whitney for Easter that year. All the bells are housed in the church’s tower and steeple, which was completed in 1876.
The first person to play the bells was Sexton T. Stephenson, followed by Sexton Arthur Wilkinson, Sexton Eliston Woolridge, and then Sandra Lilley. Today, the church has six players, rotating around the two Sunday morning services held at St. Mark’s. William S. Zuill, Keith Rossiter and Joan Skinner alternate for the 8am service, while Vernon Douglas, Alfred Spearing and 15-year-old Luke Green, son of the church’s rector Peter Green, take turns at the 10.30am service.
The chime bells were first rung at 3.30pm on Sunday, May 14, 1911, and the church is planning to commence celebrations at the same time on Sunday, May 14, 2011. A mini concert will be held, with four different players, beginning at 3.30pm, with outdoor seating and a strawberry cream tea served.
Guests will then be invited in for a half-hour service of praise and celebration, followed by an additional 30 minutes of bell playing by the final two church bell players. Each of the players will perform their favourite pieces, from hymns to classical music pieces, all specially adapted for playing on a limited number of notes.
The public is warmly welcomed to attend.