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.