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Dimaond Jubilee Bells

THE COMPANY’S BELL

Early in 2012, the Company was approached by Assistant and Alderman Andrew Parmley, on behalf of St James Garlickhythe, the Company’s church. He sought our support for a project to commission a ring of eight bells for the church to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Clerk immediately indicated that the Company would like to purchase the largest, tenor bell, beating the Dyers’ Company to it by a whisker. Fortunately the Court agreed, and so started a project that captured the imagination and interest not only of the Company, but also of the nation.

The Company’s bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which has been casting bells for over 400 years. The casting, on 17 February 2012, was witnessed by the Master, the Clerk and the General Manager, and they were surprised to see ‘Elizabeth’ written in chalk on the outside of the casing. It transpired that Her Majesty had given permission, in her Diamond Jubilee year, for each of the eight bells to be named after members of the Royal family, with the largest bell naturally named after her. This was a huge added bonus to the project. The casting was a spectacular event, with sparks and smoke flying from the molten metal as it was poured into the casing. The bell weighs over half a tonne, and has the Vintners’ Company’s coat of arms on one side, together with the Company’s motto Vinum Exhilarat Animum and Presented by the Vintners’ Company. On the other side are the Royal Arms, the words Elizabeth II R and the text The Royal Jubilee Bells Ring Today to the Glory of God 2012.

Having cooled, and been polished and tuned, all eight bells were hung on a specially-constructed metal tower on a barge, which then led the flotilla of 1,000 boats in Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant on 3 June. As the barge moved majestically down river, the bells, under the direction of the Captain of the Royal Jubilee Bellringers, Dickon Love, rang out as they passed each City church, whose bells pealed in response. It was a magically musical experience watched and enjoyed by millions.

By 17 June, the bells had been dismounted from the barge, and were lined up in the aisle of St James Garlickhythe. There they were dedicated by the Right Reverend John Waine, former Bishop of Chelmsford, at a special service attended by the Master Elect, Michael Cox, the Clerk and their wives.

On 11 July, the Company’s bell summoned the Company to St James for the newly-installed Master’s Installation Service. At the end of that service, all the bells rang out for the first time, to celebrate the Master’s Installation.

The whole bell project has played a wonderful part in the Company’s year, and especially so to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. It is wonderful to think that the Company has provided a legacy for Vintry Ward, where God willing the bells will ring out for many hundreds of years to come.

Mike Smythe (Former Clerk retired July 2012)

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