The bells of St. Dunstan’s Basilica were purchased from the Paccard Bell Foundry of France in the late 1920’s. These bells were donated to the church by the parishioners and other community and religious groups. The bells were installed in the church’s North tower and showered the community with their sounds for the next 19 years. In the late 1940’s, both of St. Dunstan’s towers were in need of repairs and the bells were removed at that time. It was said that the towers could not handle the weight of the bells and that they could not be restored to the tower in the future. The bells were put into storage under the porch of the neighboring rectory.
Fast forward to present day and the bells are being brought out of storage. Since 2012, a committee of local individuals has been promoting the idea of once again having the bells ring at this national historic site. The Christoph Paccard Bell Foundry has been engaged to assist with the goal of not only refurbishing the bells but also returning them to the Church tower. With modern engineering it will indeed be possible to place the bells in the tower. A large metal frame will be erected inside the tower but not actually touch the outer walls of the structure. The 18 bells have a total weight of approximately 10,000lbs and all of that weight will be transferred downward through the metal frame to the foundation walls of the tower. This extra weight at the base of the tower will actually improve the stability of the steeple.
The bells have been sent to the bell foundry in South Carolina where they are all going to be turned, tuned and polished. When they return they will look brand new. Along with the bells, the company is providing the metal mounting frame, new striking gear and all the electronic equipment needed to play and ring the bells. A new solid wood keyboard console with bench will be provided. The digital control system will be built into the console for ease of live play and of custom recording music if desired. Additionally, a wireless remote control is a part of the installation to allow operation of the bells from remote locations around the Historic District for special occasion’s especially celebratory days such as Canada Day.
The total cost of this project is approximately $450,000 and is being paid for through community fundraising efforts.