My last photo in the Nave was the Defibrillator – so now I go and climb the tower. 235 steps to climb 202 feet up the tower which was completed in 1374. Yes, of course I can. The first staircase is in one of the oldest parts of the Cathedral, dating from about 1250. That’s the first 110 steps, then there’s a bridge over the vaulting of the NW transept ceiling, and into the Clock Room.
This room is used as a teaching centre for bell ringing complete with dumbbells. The leaflet is rather proud: “These are special training bells and recreate the experience of having highly skilled ringers working with you. It works just like a flight simulator.” There’s a not a lot one can say to that. The Clock was built by Joyce & Co of Whitchurch in 1869. A chap was on duty at this level – and it turned out he knew my tower captain from Ponteland, and had rung those bells.
Up another 125 steps. Very sensibly the chap in the Clock Room was connected by radio to the lass on the roof, so they could ensure one way traffic. The stairs were narrow, but perfectly manageable – and I am not as unfit as I thought I was. Understandably the Ringing Room, the Carillon Room and the Belfry were all locked. The Carillon was installed in 1872, and is now “silent and obsolete”. That sounds like a challenge for a new Dean wishing to make their mark! Apparently there are 16 bells – a ring of 12 (“one of the finest rings in the world”) plus 4 additional semitone bells. I don’t claim to understand how it all works.
The leaflet we had been given gave us pictures from each of the compass points, telling us what we can see. In 1651 Prince Charles (later Charles II) watched the last battle of the English Civil War from the top of the tower before he fled the city. Having enjoyed the view, I walked down in a happier frame of mind than His Royal Highness. We went to the café – we will come across Prince Charles again later in the week.