The current Roman Catholic church of St Wilfrid, York, was completed in 1864, although there has been a church dedicated to St Wilfrid in the vicinity since medieval times. Standing barely 150 yards from the magnificent west front of York Minster, St Wilfrid’s is built in the Gothic Revival style and countless visitors entering York over Lendal Bridge cannot fail to see it as they approach the Minster.
Today, St Wilfrid’s is the major Roman Catholic church in the city of York, and draws large congregations for all of its major services. Its striking tower, visible across the city, stands 147 feet high, and since 1996 has housed an excellent ring of 10 bells.
In 1993, a Gillett and Johnston chime of 10 bells had been acquired from St John’s church, Thornham, Lancashire by a local contractor, and although they were about to be sold for scrap, ringers in York, led by the then Minster Ringing Master David Potter, were able to buy them. The chime had been cast in Croydon in 1938, installed in the same year and decicated by the Lord Bishop of Hulme on December 10.
The bells had been cast to chiming profiles with a more linear weight progression than in modern change-ringing peals, and it was decided to recast the two trebles as larger, heavier bells which would be louder and easier to ring. Taylors of Loughborough were commissioned to provide the new bells, and they were cast in September 1995 with the following inscriptions:
Treble SAINT WILFRID
BISHOP OF YORK
RIGHT OUT YOUR JOY TO GOD
ALL THE EARTH
2nd RINGERS, RING WITH ONE ACCORD,
MAKE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC TO PRAISE THE LORD.
The tower was prepared and the bells were hung by a team including a number of volunteers under the direction of bell-hanger Fred Pembleton. The frame was designed by Peter Hayward and built by Graham Blackburn, and the back eight bells were hung in August 1995. The two trebles were hung in February 1996 and the whole ring was dedicated by The Very Reverend John Southgate, past Dean of York, on April 28 1996.
Excellent sound control enables the bells to be available for ringing on a regular basis. The band practises from 7-9pm every Thursday evening, and rings for the 11am Sunday Mass every week and the 6.15 Saturday Evening Vigil when possible. By kind permission of the church authorities, the bells are available for peals once a month, and various other quarter peals and special practices take place.