The present tower replaced the older medieval one which either fell down or was demolished. It took 20 years to build and was finished in 1530.
The tower is the oldest part of the Cathedral as the rest of the church was demolished and rebuilt 1723 – 1725.
The height of the tower is 212 feet (65 metres) to the top of the pinnacles. There are 82 steps to the ringing chamber and 189 steps to the top.
The bells can been seen through a window from the spiral stairs that lead to the roof. You can also see grey patches in the walls where the floor used to be in days gone by.
The outside of the tower is currently home to some of the most famous residents in Derby – the Peregrine Falcons. Living here since 2006, there are currently (May 2008) four chicks. Also in May, a live web camera was installed. Now 1000's of people have heard the bells ringing whilst watching the birds. View their blog here.
The bells of Derby Cathedral are the oldest ring of ten bells in the world. Most of them have been here since 1678 when the number of bells was increased from 6 to 10. The largest bell weighs 19cwt. (965 kg), its note is D-Flat and it is over 500 years old. It is believed that it came from Dale Abbey at the Dissolution of the Monastries. The youngest bell, No. 3, is dated 1693, so all the bells are over 300 years old. Bell no. 8 was in Ashbourne Parish church until 1815.
The bells used to hang in a wooden frame. When the church became a Cathedral in 1927 the bells were retuned and ruhung at a lower level in a new metal frame.
Pictorial history of the bells - by Roger Lawson.
The same ten bells are used for the clock, the carillon and for change ringing. Hammers, operated by bellcrank levers and wires, strike the sides of the bells for the clock and carillon. These hammers are pulled out of the way to allow the bells to turn full circle for service ringing. At appropriate times the clock sends signals to strike the hours, quarters and to cause the carillon to play.
The tubes which go through the walls to drive the hour hands of the clock are cavalry carbines from the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Derby.
Until 1976 the clock and carillon were driven by heavy weights which had to be wound up twice a week. They are now electrically driven.
The Carillon operates like a giant musical box. The large cylindrical drum with pegs rotates to trip levers connected by wires to hammers which strike the outside of the bells. Two hammers are required for each bell as some tunes need the same note struck twice in quick succession.
The Carillon plays a 9 am, 12 noon and 6pm. The array of trip leavers moves axially to a fresh set of pegs so that a different tune is played each day.
The tunes are:
On Saturday the tune is the Derby Ram – the regimental march of the Sherwood Foresters. We hope it also inspires Derby County Football team.
The official web site for Derby Cathedral.
Tower Map & email >