Bell ringers aim for world record with peal to mark Queen's 90th birthday


Tomorrow will see the team of seven ringers ringing the world's heaviest peal of bells, a task that involves ringing the six heaviest bells for almost five hours here at Liverpool Cathedral.

The attempt comes 65 years after the Queen, as a young Princess Elizabeth, visited the cathedral to officially signal the first ever ringing of the bells in 1951.

Once the ringing starts, the team will have to continue through a range of over 5,000 changes, without a break or allowing a handover to other ringers.

The biggest bell, a tenor called Emmanuel, weighs 4 tons, measures almost 2.5 meters in both diameter and height, and will take two ringers to operate. The six bells together weight almost 13,000 kg.

Len Mitchell, of the cathedral guild of change ringers, told journalist Larry Neild for Liverpool Confidential: "We are looking forward to this challenge on the Queen's birthday, especially as she started the first ever peal of the bells just a year before she became our Queen."

Although the bells were installed in the cathedral tower in the 1930s, because of World War II they remained silent and were not rung until Nov. 17, 1951. The Queen and Prince Philip arrived on an ocean liner after a tour to Canada, and she came to Liverpool to "open" the bells at the cathedral.

"We have a peal of 13 bells in the cathedral, the heaviest set of bells in the world. As the bell chamber is 220 feet (67 meters) above ground level, they are also the highest set of bells in the world."

He explained the style of ringing they carry out as "traditional English ringing," meaning each bell turns full circle at 360 degrees.

It is a physically demanding job for the ringers, even more so when it involves the six heaviest bells, he said, adding that what they were attempting had never been done before.

"There are strict rules governing our attempt, such as the number of changes without a break, and we reckon it will take almost five hours without a break. Once we start we have to continue. If one person stops, the attempt comes to an end," Len said.

Around the world there are 6,000 sets of bells, mostly in church towers, but around 97 percent of the bells are in Britain.

The cathedral has a rarely rung the 14th bell, the Great George, traditionally used on solemn occasions such as the death of a monarch. It weighs more than 14 tons and is the third biggest bell in the British Isles.

Due to the noise level that will be reached in the Bell Chamber, the tower will be closed to visitors during the ringing from 10am - 3pm. 

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @livcathedral for live updates of the bell ringing tomorrow.