Music - The Chimes

The “Carswell Memorial Chimes”, were cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London, England, and were dedicated in 1924. Mr. Thomas Edgar Houston, of Cincinnati, donated the “Chimes” and “Tower” in memory of Mrs. Houston’s parents Edward and Rebecca Carswell, two of the founding members of the original St. George’s parish.

Alas by definition the bells of St. George’s Memorial are chimes, not a carillon, but we do not tell everyone. A carillon is a set of bells consisting of 23 or more bells. A chime is a set of, from 8 to 22 bells. Nevertheless the bells over the years have been identified by the citizens of Oshawa as the carillon at St. George’s Memorial and so it locally remains the carillon, a much beloved instrument, to the Glory of God.

Fall of 2005 is the date of this annual chronicle (commenced in 2003) and it should be noted that a history is never ending and it is hoped that historian chimers of the future, or others, will continue to chronicle the times that shape the “Carswell Memorial Chimes” in an annual chronicle.

The Chimes were officially unveiled and dedicated on November 9th 1924.


To call the folk to church in time...we chime.
When joy and pleasure are on the wing...we ring.
When from the body parts the soul.... we toll.

Appreciation: This short history could not have been gathered without the valuable assistance of St. George’s Archivist Ruth Park. Early history and quote of the bells are from the parish history “St. George’s Our Heritage” by Kathleen M. Rose

Of our fifteen bells, fourteen are fixed, as per the accompanying pictures, while the 15th, the tenor bell is free swinging. See “Big Ed” below. This is the final bell that calls us to worship.

It is very difficult to get an actual picture of the “Carswell Memorial Chimes” An array of bells, without walls is shown to the left.

There are 15 bells in the “Carswell Memorial Chimes”, an octave and a half in the diatonic scale, with four semi-tones. As mentioned above, the Keynote bell is in the tenor. This bell is the ringing, or free-swinging bell, the balance of the bells being fixed in their cradle. The tenor bell is engraved to the memory of Mr. And Mrs. Edward Carswell who were original members of this parish.

On each face of the church tower are four sets of louvers, sixteen in all. Some partially open, some closed to keep out the pigeons, rain, etc. Because they are in a fixed unequal position the sound of the chimes is slightly distorted and directional. In a perfect world each vertical row of the eight louvers would be individually, electrically, controlled through a variety of positions, being fully closed when chimes are not being played or being played by chimers in training, to a variety of open positions depending upon the occasion.

Below is a picture of “Big Ed” the Tenor free-swinging Bell of the Carswell Chimes. Donated in memory of Mr. Edward Carswell a founding member of the parish of St. George’s. Like most “Tenor” Bells it is given a name. There is “Big Ben”, thirteen and a half tons, in the Westminster Houses of Parliament. Then there is “Big Paul”, the largest in the commonwealth at sixteen tons and “Big Tom” at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.


And then there is Oshawa's and St. George’s “Big Ed” weighing in at 5759 pounds, almost three tons.” Big Ed" is keyed in “B”

Given the weight of all of the bells it is not surprising that the tower is as massive at it is.

“Big Ed” and his friends turned 80 years old in 2004. During the intervening years their “voices” have been heard across Oshawa over 5000 times on Sundays, Christmas, Easter Week, Weddings funerals etc. calling to the parishioners of St. George’s. One can only despair at the feathered company that the bells have been host to over the years. The feathered ones have certainly left their mark.

The 15 bells in the “Carswell Memorial Chimes” are currently ranked among the top ten chimes in Canada.

Below are some of “Big Ed’s” tinnier friends in their fixed state.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Mears and Stainbank, London, England cast the bells in 1923/24...................

They also have feathered friends who visit from time to time.

Within the bell tower, in the first chamber, one finds a set of stairs, climbing at a steep angle, some 56 steps in all, passing through the second, the ringing chamber, and on up to the third, the chiming chamber wherein the “Clavier” is located. Given that each chamber is the equivalent of two stories, it is a long way up.

For over eighty years generations of parishioners, since 1924, the chimers have climbed these long stairs to ring the chimes to world.

Note the free swinging rope, which is used to ring “Big Ed” in the call to worship or to toll for those parishioners who have departed this life. This is the ringing chamber.

This picture was taken some years ago and is of the original stairs.

Unfortunately, as time did pass, the stairs gradually aged and fell into disrepair to such an extent that it became a very perilous ascent, which was scary, and a descent, which was terrifying, for the chimers.

A consequence of which was the number of parishioners who volunteered to play the chimes diminished, sometimes down to one person. In the nineties when the stairs were at their most perilous it was Donna Matsushita, the Chime Master from 1990 to 2002, who kept alive the spirit of the bells. In 1996-98 Mrs. Helen Hind donated the necessary funds, in memory of her husband Lionel Hind, to replace the chime stairs, in the hope that it would lead to a revival of a core of chimers within the parishioners of St. George’s. Such a revival is currently (2004) underway. It is hoped over the next few years to build the chimers group up to twelve. Parishioners are encouraged to chime in.

Because of the vastness of the chiming chamber a small inner cabin has been built which houses the clavier, and that can be heated in the winter, much to the comfort of the chimer.

The “Clavier” (keyboard) below is made of oak containing the baton handles of the one and a half octave. This clavier, made by the I.T. Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, was placed in the Tower in 1988, replacing the original clavier. The Clavier is arranged in an open key.

Also in the cabin is a “peg-chiming barrel, which was first invented in the 14th Century. The introduction of the weight-driven clock mechanism in the 14th century led to this invention. By the 17th century over 500 chimes in Europe utilized this method. Late in the 18th century a chime of 10 to 20 bells playable from a keyboard, the clavier, or chime stand, became fashionable. From about 1850 to 1930 hundreds of these devices and the “pegged chiming barrels” were imported to the United States and Canada. These barrels had few technical changes from the late 18th century to the middle of the 20th century.

St. George’s “pegged chiming barrel”. J. W. BENSON LTD., London, England, Clock and Carillon Makers made this. 1923. No. 770. It is one of the largest built, up to that time, being some eleven feet long with a diameter of two feet six inches. There are over 3400 steel pegs located on the drum. The pegs tripped levers, on the side of the drum, which in turn were wired to the hammers, which in turn struck the bells.

It is very similar to a music box, except it, as you can see it is gargantuan in size. St. George’s Memorial “pegged” drum was “wound up” using the large handle on the left, while selection was done by the smaller wheel adjustment on the right. Onward Christian Soldiers: Rock of Ages: Coronation Hymn: Fight the Good Fight: Abide With Me, and Four Groups of Changes

Unfortunately the “pegged chiming barrel” is currently out of service.

One of the most famous “chiming barrels” is used to play the “Westminster Chime” for “Big Ben” the E-D-C-G. Which was written by Cambridge University student William Crotch, in 1793 originally for St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge, but adopted by the clock tower in the Houses of Parliament, London, in 1859

The “Carswell Memorial Chimes of St. George’s have announced the Sunday services, special celebrations of the church, sounded joyously at the weddings of our parishioners, have tolled at the loss of our loved ones. The chimes have chimed to celebrate the return of our servicemen from the perils of war, conflict, and peacekeeping. The chimes have been a rallying point for our congregation over the years, and, hopefully, will continue to do so for many years to come.

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©2006 St. George's Memorial Anglican Church