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The Bells of St. Mary’s

 

The wonderful peal of eight bells that hang in the tower were the gift of the Misses Margaret S. and Mary McIlvaine. Purchased at the price of $10,000, the bells were to given on condition that the parish retire the debt incurred in the construction of the New Church. The English firm of Mears & Stainbank cast the bells, made on the "Doncaster" pattern, at their famous Whitechapel Foundry in 1865. Messrs. Mears and Stainbank wrote of them, "We are happy to say a finer peal of bells never left this foundry." The bells were shipped from London via New York on the ship Cella and arrived in Burlington on February 16, 1866 after surviving a difficult transatlantic voyage. The Rev. Eugene A. Hoffman, Rector of St. Mary's from 1863-64, noted, "The bells are beautifully made, of excellent tone and tune ... I do not hesitate to say, that I think it the finest peal in this country." The bells were first played on Easter, April 1, 1866. Each bell is dedicated.

 

  • The first and largest bell, weighing 2,800 pounds, is inscribed: This peal of eight bells is the gift of Margaret S. and Mary McIlvaine to S. Mary's Church, Burlington, New Jersey, Christmas, A.D. 1863. Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
  • The second bell is the Bishop's Bell: In memory of George Washington Doane, Second Bishop of New Jersey. The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.
  • The third bell is the Rector's Bell: O ye Priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever.
  • The fourth bell is the People's Bell: O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever.
  • The fifth bell is the Thanksgiving Bell: My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh give thanks unto His holy Name forever and ever.
  • The sixth bell, the Funeral Bell, bears the inscription: O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him forever.
  • The Marriage (seventh) Bell bears Those whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder.
  • The eighth bell is called the Patriot's Bell: Give peace in our time, O Lord

 

The bells may be rung in either of two ways. The bells can hang stationary, mouth down, and be struck by side chiming hammers. This arrangement allows one person to play hymn tunes. Anyone interested in more information on the bells should contact Robert Bacon (Master of the Chimes) for chiming or hymn playing. Bob is assisted in this ministry by assistant Michael Ekelburg and Gareth Haynes.

 

The other way of ringing them is to make them swing full 360 degree circle so that their central clapper strikes the bell once on each side of the swing. This type of ringing is called change ringing and comes from a long tradition in England. Change ringing requires one person per bell. Hymn tunes are not played. The bells sound in a "changing cascade of sound" as the bells weave their sound in and out -- much like line or square dancing -- by changing the order in which they are rung. Change ringing is heard from thousands of towers in England. St. Mary's is one of only 38 towers in all of North America where this ancient art is practiced.