Diocese of Cork, Cloyne & Ross

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

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The North-West tower of the Cathedral houses a ring of twelve bells which are considered to be among the finest in Ireland.

The Cathedral on this site prior to the present building was a modest Georgian style structure constructed in 1735 and attached to an older tower.  This tower, completed in 1677 and attached to an earlier medieval building, housed a number of bells.  We do not know how many bells were in it but one was sold to the town of Mallow in 1680 and another to one Nicholas Fitton in 1766.  In 1751 the Chapter passed a resolution to erect a spire and set up a ring of bells in the steeple of the Cathedral.  Abel Rudhall of Gloucester was commissioned to cast a ring of eight bells for the Cathedral which, although cast in 1751 were not installed until the latter part of 1752 or early in 1753.  The bell frame appears to have become defective by the beginning of the nineteenth century as it is noted that extensive repairs were required in 1802.

Demolition of the tower and the 18th Century Cathedral began in 1865 to make way for William Burges’ present masterpiece.  The bells were taken down and all but the treble were stored in the Custom House vaults during construction of the new building.  The treble bell was erected temporarily at the Schoolhouse on Dean Street, which was used for worship while building works progressed. The Cathedral was consecrated on St. Andrew’s Day, 30th November 1870 and it was reported that the bells were ‘ringing out merry peals’ before the service of consecration.

As the bells were hung low in the tower and chimed, probably by ‘clocking’ where the bells are struck by means of cords attached to their clappers, from a chiming apparatus or frame, it was difficult to hear them very far from the cathedral.  This prompted the Dean and Chapter to institute an appeal in 1902 to raise £500 to have a ‘proper job done’.  Taylor’s of Loughborough installed a new steel frame higher in the tower in 1903 and the bells were hung on one level with all the fittings required for full circle ringing, enabling the bells to be rung by teams of bellringers. 


Advancing corrosion prompted a decision to replace the frame in 2007 when an opportunity was taken to augment the ring by adding four trebles to give a ring of twelve bells and an additional sharp second bell to give a lighter diatonic ring of eight.

2008 Restoration and Augmentation


The bells were reinstalled in 2008 by Matthew Higby & Co.Ltd. of Bath on a new galvanized steel frame with eight bells on the lower level and five bells on the upper part of the frame. The Ellacomb chiming apparatus has been retained and the back eight bells can still be chimed when required using trip hammers.  A weather cover incorporating sound control trapdoors is installed to protect the bells from ingress of water from driving rain and seepage through the masonry of the spire and to hopefully preserve the art of ‘full circle bell ringing’ in Cork for many generations to come.