Past and present

The Great War ended with the armistice, signed on November 11th 1918. On the 15th of November the Mayoress of Cape Town, Mrs W. Thorne, published an invitation to all ladies who were willing to assist in the signing of a proposal to erect a memorial carillon for the South African victims of the war in the tower of the City Hall. The invitation drew some 40 ladies who met in the Library of the City Hall building on the 18th of November. Together the ladies formed the Committee of the Women’s Peace Thanksgiving Offering and decided to launch The Carillon Fund.

By 1922 there was sufficient capital to ask the Taylor Foundry to add 9 bells to the existing 5-bell chime of the foundry. A second order, including that for the bourdon, followed in 1923. Early 1924 another 14 bells finished the plans.  Of these bells, 5 were donated by individuals. For example, the bourdon was donated by Cecil J Rhodes. Different groups donated 7 of the bells. The other 20 referred to the different battlefields in which South Africa was involved: 10 in France, 4 in Flanders and 6 in areas in Africa.

At the suggestion of the Taylor foundry, Antwerp carillonneur Anton Brees played the installation concerts. The inauguration took place on the 30th of April 1925 at the occasion of the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales to the City of Cape Town. Brees started his first concert with the Hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past.

During the period 1925 to 1985 the carillon was rather popular among the citizens of Cape Town and the city had its successive carillonneurs. Two small bells were added to the instrument in 1953. Later the interest in the instrument declined and currently the City Government has indicated its desire to get the carillon back into the public’s attention.

Facts and figures

Number of bells 39
Total weight of the bells 15,059 kg
Weight of the bourdon 2409 kg
Pitch of bourdon b, connected to C in the keyboard
Bell-founders John Taylor & Co (5 from 1905; 17 from 1923; 15 from 1924; 2 from 1953)
Manual playing system mechanical baton-type keyboard
Automatic playing system mechanical drum for 12 bells (J. Smith & Sons, Midland Clock Works, Derby, England)
Carillonneur none
Regular recitals none
Summer concerts occasionally
Accessibility of the tower by appointment only

Significant inscription

THE MEMORIAL COMMITTEE

MADE AND DEDICATED ME

TO THE

IMMORTAL HONOUR OF

SOUTH AFRICANS

WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE

IN THE GREAT WAR

1914-1918

Inscription on bell n° 6, donated by the Cape Town War Memorial Committee

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