The Quadrangle

The Carillon

The War Memorial Carillon, commemorating the 197 undergraduates, graduates and staff who died in World War I, was installed in the Clock Tower and dedicated on Anzac Day, 25 April 1928.

Visit the University's Carillon website

On this webpage:


Photos are courtesy of the University Archives unless otherwise indicated. Click on images for enlargement.

The War Memorial Carillon
 The War Memorial Carillon,
photo, University Secretariat


In the 1920s

War Memorial Carillon Appeal

In 1923 a proposal was made by the Evening Students to erect a carillon as a war memorial to the 197 members of the University who died during World War I. An Executive Committee was appointed to oversee the project. Opinion was divided between constructing a free-standing campanile or placing the carillon in the existing tower — the existing tower won.

An appeal for the project was launched and by 1925 over 15,000 pounds had been collected. The Structure Subcommittee, led by engineer Dr J J C Bradfield, member of Senate (1913-40) and Chief Engineer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, presented a proposal whereby the weight of the carillon bells in the tower would be supported by steel stanchions, thereby causing no harm to the structure.

The carillon itself was designed by the prominent British Bellfounders John Taylor & Co, who cast the bells in 1927 in their foundry in Loughborough, Leicestershire. The bells were shipped on the Port Gisborne to Sydney early in 1928.

Instead of the 49 bells (4 fully chromatic octaves) which had been ordered, the University received 62: 49 inscribed ones and a duplicate set of 13 (one full octave), so each note in the top octave was sounded by 2 bells.

Unloading the bells:

Bell no. 6 being downloaded from the Port Gisborne

Bell no. 6 being downloaded from the Port Gisborne, photo G3_224_0065_1, University of Sydney Archives.

The 4 largest bells, including the AIF and the Arts bells, required one horse-drawn cart each. Each convoy consisted of 8 carts:

 One of the large bells A convoy of bells to the University 
 One of the large bells,
photo G3_224_0065_3,
University of Sydney Archives.
  A convoy of bells to the University,
photo G3_224_1478,
University of Sydney Archives.
 Another view of a convoy of bells
The first bell to arrive at the University
Another view of a convoy of bells,
photo G3_224_0065_5 ,
University of Sydney Archives.
  Students welcome the first bell
to arrive at the University,
photo G3_224_0066_1,
University of Sydney Archives.

Assembling the bells:

A few of the larger bells
A few of the larger bells - the Arts bell and
the AIF bell, the largest, are on the right,
photo, Northern Star, 5 May 1928,
National Library of Australia.

 Being installed
One of the big bells being sent up the tower,
photo G3_224_0066_2,
University of Sydney Archives. 
  
The St Andrew's College bell being hoisted into place,
photo, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 1928,
 National Library of Australia.
The AIF Bell being hoisted into position
The AIF bell being hoisted into position,
photo, The Sydney Morning Herald,
29 March 1928,
National Library of Australia.

 In the belfry
In the belfry, while the bells were
being put in their places,
sketch, The Sydney Mail, 25 April 1928,
Google News Archive.
Some of the bells placed in position
Some of the bells placed in position
behind the parapet of the tower,
photo, The Sydney Morning Herald,
24 March 1928,
National Library of Australia.

The carillonist:

The carillonist, Bryan Barker and the clavier Bryan Barker seated at the keyboard 
The carillonist, Bryan Barker
and the clavier (keyboard),
photo,  The Sydney Mail, 25 April 1928,
Google News Archive.
Bryan Barker seated at the keyboard,
photo,  Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 1928,
Natiojnal Library of Australia.

As part of this project the old clock face was replaced in 1928 by four clocks, one for each face of the tower. At the same time the flag pole on top of the tower was removed to allow installation of the carillon; it was not until 1933 that the pole was replaced.

Poem 'The Carillon' by John Le Gay Brereton

The following poem by John Le Gay Brereton was published in 1924 along with a pencil drawing by John D Moore of the
Clock Tower in a leaflet sold for one shilling and sixpence, which helped raise funds for the War Memorial Carillon. Le Gay Brereton was the University's first Professor of English and Fisher Librarian from 1914-21. He was a poet and close friend of both Henry Lawson and Christopher Brennan.

The Carillon
I sit in the dusk and see
Surely the living faces, dear to me,
Of comrades who have thrown
All that they had, the fruit of all desire,
Upon an altar-fire.

They heard,
Above all clamour of the crowd,
The music of their own hearts throbbing loud,
Until the air was stirred
Into a summoning harmony; and so
We saw them rise, and go.

The sound,
That love set ringing in those years
Of agony, exultation, voiceless fears,
And hopes now underground,
Shall not be silenced; it is thrilling yet,
And we shall not forget.

But clear,
The mellow tone of mingled notes,
Triumph and sorrow made one spirit, floats
To my prophetic ear;
That is their music echoing, echoing still
From our remembering hill.

Declare
(Before the hour clangs "Ah! Too late')
That in this challenge to all-smothering fate
You too must have your share;
Your love, your faith, the floating music tells
Of our Carillon Bells.

From 'The Gazette', September 1986


Launch of the Carillon, 1928

The War Memorial Carillon was installed in the Clock Tower and dedicated on Anzac Day, 25 April 1928. An inauguration ceremony was followed by a military ceremony, and then a program of music was played on the Carillon.

Read about the inauguration ceremony, the military ceremony and the music of the Carillon from SMH reports.

Crowds attending the inauguration:

Crowds attending the inauguration Crowds attending the inauguration
photo G3_224_0071_2,
University of Sydney Archives.
photo, University of Sydney Archives.
 Crowds attending the inauguration Crowds attending the inauguration 
photos, The Sydney Mail, 2 May 1928,
Google News Archive. 

In the 1970s

New and expanded Carillon, 1977

The smaller treble bells, particularly those in the duplicated top octave, were never as satisfactory as the resonant lower bells, so in 1973 the top 38 bells were returned to the original bellfounders for recasting, and at the same time five additional top bells were cast to extend the range.

The expanded carillon, now consisting of 54 bells sounding 54 chromatic notes (4½ octaves) was inaugurated in November 1977.

On 16 July 1977, thirty new bells were lifted by crane into the University of Sydney carillon

On 16 July 1977, thirty new bells were lifted by crane into the University of Sydney carillon, which has been silent for more than four years, photo, 'The University of Sydney News', 1977.

In the 1990s

Decommissioning of the old C#3 bell and the dedication of the new bell, 1999

The C#3 bell, which had been recast in 1975, had developed several cracks and in May 1999 it was replaced. The decommissioning of the old and the dedication of the new bell was celebrated on 11 May 1999, partly with a recital. The bell was dedicated to Archibald Walter Scot-Skirving (1889 - 1915), Medical graduate, University of Sydney, 1912, who died of wounds at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, on 8 August 1915.

The decommissioned bell is on view in the Quadrangle, near the entrance to the Ante Room.

View the program for the recital.

The decommissioned bell.

The decommissioned bell, photo, University Secretariat.

In the early 2000s

Replacement of 32 newly cast high notes, 2003

In 2003, the Carillon was restored with the replacement of 32 newly cast high notes. The names inscribed on the original bells were re-inscribed on the new ones.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the UK, where Big Ben was manufactured, was chosen to cast the new bells in 80 per cent copper and 20 per cent tin, carefully blending the sounds to match the existing larger bells.

Read the news item "Hitting a high note: new bells herald carillon's anniversary".
Read the news item "Ringing in the new".

One of the University's new bells being cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The new bells 
 One of the University's new bells being cast
at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London,
photo, 'The University of Sydney News',
28 February 2003
.
The new bells,
photo, courtesy Publications.

LB