We have recently digitised images of the bell which hangs in the Abbey tower, and thought it an opportune time to share these images and some facts about the ‘Great Bede’.

The bell was named for Archbishop Bede Vaughan, second Archbishop of Sydney 1877-1883. Arriving at Downside in 1903 from Beverly Minster, the bell was brought south mainly by train before getting a horse and cart the last leg of the trip. In the first image you can see it on the cart after arriving at the tower prior to installation. 

Weighing 5 and a quarter tons, ‘Great Bede’ was the 9th largest bell in the country when it arrived at Downside. Cast by Taylors of Loughborough, who also made the ‘Great Paul’ of St Paul’s Cathedral, it has a note of G bourdon. Running around the edge is the inscription Voco Alumnos Ut Gratias Hodie Agant Numini (an acrostic of Vaughan).

‘Great Bede’ was consecrated by Abbot Ford in July 1903 and then lifted into the tower, the first section of which was built between 1881-4 by Dunn and Hansom, and stood at 132 feet tall. In 1938 Sir Giles Gilbert Scott added the Gasquet Crown, the final section, to the top finally completing it at 166 feet. 

In the images below we can see various stages of ‘Great Bede’s installation. First, it had to be slid under the walkway from school to church. Interest in the new addition was high, as can be seen with monks next to a camera in front of the bell.We can see Dom Gregory Quinlan with ‘Great Bede’ and also Dom Philip Whiteside who was monastic bursar when the bell was purchased. In the final photo the bell is in the tower ready to be raised to the top of the tower and into position. 

To find out more about the monastery archives click here