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A Weekly Peal

The St. James' Cathedral Guild of Change Ringers ring North America's first full set of 12 change-ringing bells (the only one in Canada, and one of only two installations on the continent) before the 11 am service on Sundays, beginning as soon as the 9 am service has ended - usually sometime around 10:10 am.


(visit the guild's page) 


Information about the bells in PDF format:

The Bells of Old York

  One hundred feet high in the tower and spire which crowns St. James' Cathedral is a peal of twelve change-ringing bells, the only such ring of 12 in North America. A unique presence in the Cathedral's musical life, "The Bells of Old York" are rung by members of The St. James' Cathedral Guild of Change Ringers.

The 12 bells are arranged into a frame, which sits on a concrete beam circumventing the 6 ft thick walls of the tower. This beam in turn is supported into the buttresses of the tower and is especially designed to take the swinging forces of these heavy bells. Each bell is suspended from a "headstock" and can swing between two bearings. On one side of the headstock is an oak wheel with a rope attached at a strategic location. On the opposite side of the bell to the wheel and in the opposite direction to the bell is an ash "stay". Inside of the bell and pivoted at the top of the bell, is a "clapper". This is able to swing freely in the same plane as the bell. The ropes from the twelve bells fall in a circle to the "Ringing Chamber", some 60ft below.

By manipulating a rope, its bell can be "raised" from the mouth downward position, increasingly swinging backwards and forwards until it is fully mouth upwards. This is the bell's normal ringing position. The purpose of the "stay" is to engage with another piece of wood, the "slider", in the base of the frame to hold the bell in this upright position between ringing sessions.

Group tours of the bells are arranged by special appointment. Please call the Cathedral office at 416-364-7865.

The Tower & Spire

The tower and spire of St. James rises 305 feet above the street. Though that is modest in comparison to Toronto's CN Tower (1815 ft), in terms of bell towers, St. James is among the tallest in the world - but see also:

(Unlike St. James, these cathedrals do not have change ringing bells.)

The St. James tower was designed by William Storm and built in 1865-70 to complement the Cathedral nave and sanctuary which were completed in 1853. On completion of the tower part, an impressive clock was donated by the citizens of Toronto. Ten carillon-style chime bells cast by Meneely of Troy, NY were taken to the top of the tower behind the large louvres and continue to be used to both chime the clock quarters and ring for services and weddings when the change ringing bells are not used.

The chime bells are a completely different set of bells compared to the 12 change ringing bells - The Bells of Old York - which were installed to celebrate the Cathedral's bicentennial in 1997.