Thursday, October 5, 2017

The 1845 Whitechapel bell at St. George's Anglican Church, Petty Harbour

C & G Mears Founders London bell at Petty Harbour - cast circa 1845

We paid a visit to St. George’s Anglican Church in Petty Harbour this morning, to have an initial meeting about compiling an architectural and oral history of the building. While there, we explored the belfry, and took a few photos of the building’s historic bell.

The church is the third Anglican church on the site. The first, St. David’s, was built in 1829. It was replaced by St. Andrew’s in 1845. Fire destroyed the second church in 1934. The new cornerstone was laid May 31, 1937, and the church opened for services in 1939.

The bell appears to be the original bell for the second church, St. Andrew’s. According to Sheila MacKenzie Brown’s 1981 Folklore MA thesis “The Church Bell Tradition in Newfoundland: A Reflection of Culture Change,” the St. George’s bell was cast (or purchased) in 1845.

The bell is cast with the foundry’s mark “C & G Mears Founders London.” The name C & G Mears was one of many names used by the company now operating as 'Whitechapel Bell Foundry Ltd.” The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain's oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1570 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) and being in continuous business since that date. The Petty Harbour St. Andrew’s bell has some historic counterparts, as the foundry produced such notable bells as Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.

The bell is one of seven Newfoundland Whitechapel bells noted in Brown’s 1981 thesis. At that time, the remaining six identified were: a 1846 bell cast for an unnamed Anglican church in St. John’s; the 1852 bell for the Anglican church in Hermitage; the 1931 bell for the United Church in Twillingate; a 1932 bell for the Anglican Cathedral in St. John’s; the 1952 bell for the Anglican Church in Seldom-Come-By, Fogo; and the 1962 bell for the Anglican Church in Daniel’s Harbour.

View of the bell from underneath

Following the 1934 fire, the bell was re-used in the current church. The bell is still rung each Sunday to announce the start of service at St. George’s. Service starts at 11:15 (to allow time for the officiating priest to finish their service at St. Paul’s Anglican in the Goulds).

View of the wheel mechanism that aids in the ringing of the bell. 

View of St. George's Anglican Church from the hill behind the church, showing the belfry. The four-sided spire and corner finials are tin; note the original decorative railing between the finials, 3/4 of which is now missing.  The bell is housed in the tower behind the louvered opening.

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