Carillon News

January 16, 2003

The Spalding Town Carillon

Mr. Ted Crampton of Spalding, England, wrote me with the
story of the carillon in his home town. Spalding is a prosperous agricultural market
town of 21,000 inhabitants in eastern England, a few miles from the east coast.

A Corn Exchange was built in Spalding in 1856--a reflection
on the town's agricultural importance--and it eventually became the original
home of the town's carillon. The first meeting of the War Memorial Chiming
Clock and Carillon Committee met on 30 July 1919 with the objective of
providing a suitable war memorial to honor the dead of World War I by public
and private donations. The committee was chaired by one Dr. Ernest Farrow, and
other members included Mr. Haydn Chester, organist and choirmaster of the
Spalding Parish Church.

The Spalding Urban District Council was in agreement with
the project provided that civic funds were not involved. It would seem that the
construction of the clock tower and carillon structure was a local project
undertaken with the help of employees of Dr. Farrow's engineering company in
the town, with the Taylor Bellfoundry of Loughborough providing only the 23
bells which were inscribed with the name of local casualties who died in the
war, although some were dedicated to local subscribers.

With the construction nearly complete, the town council
stepped in unhelpfully with a set of instructions regulating the times of
playing of the carillon to two or three hours in the evening. For maintenance
purposes, it could only be tested for five minutes. It could not be played at
all on Sundays or parliamentary or local election days, or when council
meetings were taking  place, or
when the corn exchange was in public use. Furthermore, not more than four
people were to be nominated to play the carillon, and written permission from
the chairman of the corn exchange committee would be required for visiting
carillonneurs.

Owing to the friction between the committee and the council,
construction of a playing console was delayed. The council engaged Loughborough
carillonneur W.E. Jordan in March, 1927, to be their consultant for the
project. An estimate was obtained from John Taylor & Company for the installation
of a three-octave console, with the lowest octave playable by pedals. Funding
was not forthcoming, and the instrument remained silent for twelve years.

Sparse records show that a console was finally installed. It
is probable that it was made in Dr. Farrow's engineering works, and it appears
to be rather elementary in photographs. No doubt it worked in a fashion, but
there are no reports of its use. It is not known who played the instrument, or
how often, but reports indicate that it became unplayable and silent once more
in the mid-1930s.

Mr. Hastings was responsible for initiating repairs that
allowed the carillon briefly to ring out once more in celebration of the end of
World War II. Dr. Farrow died in 1956, and amongst his effects was an envelope
containing £9, 4s 8d. marked "Carillon money." This was
earmarked by the council for future use with the carillon restoration.

The corn exchange was demolished in 1972. The council
incorporated the restored carillon into the new South Holland Centre which was
opened in 1974, a structure housing a theater/cinema, halls for dancing, other
entertainment, and a bell tower. The tower was fitted with a chiming clock,
with its three faces looking out on to the market place. Seven of the bells
were recast due to cracks and other deterioration. The total weight is 1524 kg.
A two-octave keyboard was installed for playing the carillon by
electro-mechanical action, and there was a provision for playing the bells with
a music roll.

Unfortunately, there was no manual playing console. The
British Carillon Society offered to install, at no cost to the town council, a
true carillon console for manual playing. Their offer was not accepted.