In March 1867 the peal of St Paul’s bells were installed – as described in the Wellington Independent:
‘the ears of the inhabitants of Wellington were gratified by the unaccustomed sound arising from the ringing of a peal of church bells … and though but a small one, is a great improvement upon the single bells hitherto used in our places of worship and arouses pleasant reminiscences of the old country’.
They must have created a real nostalgia for the colonials, missing their homes in the United Kingdom. There were three bells in this original set, made in London. An anonymous poem was published soon after in the Evening Post:
On Hearing St Paul’s Bells The First Time
Yes, once again I hear the merry peal
So soft and sweetly o’er my senses steal,
Like liquid music stealing on the morning air,
While all around seems beautiful and fair.
We little think, perhaps, those merry chimes
May draw us nearer to those good old times,
When we were young and pure – our spirits gay –
And so we passed the youthful hours away.
But now a change comes o’er the spirit of our dream –
Perhaps we may not be so heartless as we seem;
Yet money-getting seems to have the sway,
And little else is thought of day by day.
But let us hope more happy times may break
Without this golden glitter and estate,
Of which men think and dream by day and night,
And never let the main chance out of sight.
Thus thought I, as the merrie bell’s sweet sound
Threw all their soothing influence around –
They rung around the words, “The day is ours,
“And many who listen now may feel our powers.”
I started from my thoughts and turned away,
But still the whispering bells they seemed to say –
“You’ll hear us often in the passing hours,
“Telling of music, fairy themes and flowers.”
Anon, Wellington, April 1867
After the church closed for worship in the 1960s, after being in place for almost a century, the bells were removed and placed in the new Cathedral. Old St Paul’s had no bells for some years, until a large fundraising campaign organised by the Friends of Old St Paul’s raised money for new ones.
One of these original bells has survived, and is now on display at the Wellington Museum. The story of the survival of that bell will be told in another post.
Sources: Wellington Independent, 2 April 1867, p3 and Evening Post, 15 April 1867, p2