500-year-old bell returning to Lichfield Cathedral after restoration

A ‘small but mighty bell’ which has been calling people to prayer at Lichfield Cathedral for more than 200 years is returning to the place of worship this week after being restored.

Lichfield Cathedral
Lichfield Cathedral

After many years of daily use, the Tantony Bell was in need of extensive repair along with the fittings that suspended it in the central tower.

It is being returned to the cathedral on Thursday where visitors will be able to see it displayed on the central altar platform in the nave until it is installed in the central tower on Monday.

The bell is believed to have been cast around the year 1500 and installed in Lichfield Cathedral during the post English Civil War restoration by Bishop John Hacket, around 1666-1667.

The name Tantony is derived from St Antony of Egypt (251-356), a saint in the Middle Ages with the diminutive of his name given to the smallest of the bells of the peal.

The Tantony Bell at Lichfield Cathedral

Jonathan Townsend, assistant clerk of works at Lichfield Cathedral, said: “Bishop John Hacket is known in Lichfield Cathedral as the great restorer of the cathedral; his Tantony Bell memorial tomb is clear for all to see in the south quire aisle.

“What is less well-known is that he was also a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths, a London-based bell ringing society still very active today.

“According to ASCY records, John Hacket was member number 39.

Jonathan Townsend at Lichfield Cathedral

“Records show he was keenly involved in placing bells in Lichfield as part of his great restoration and it seems likely he sourced the Tantony bell and placed it in the central tower.

“It has been a privilege to be involved in the project to refurbish the bell and its fittings, for me it is a tangible link to the past – just think how many people have heard this very bell ringing since its installation here c. 1667, some 42 years before Samuel Johnson was born in the city within earshot of the bell.

“It also represents a link to the ASCY, I am member number 8278 and feel proud to see the bell return to the cathedral where a fellow society member heard and perhaps even rang this bell 355 years ago.”

The Tantony bell will be available for visitors to view during usual visiting hours and thanks will be given for its restoration during the Sunday Eucharist service at 10.30am on Sunday.

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