We’ve all heard the poem by John Donne that warns, “ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” However, when you ask that question in Perth, Western Australia, people excitedly jump to get a turn to clang the bells.
The Swan Bells, or Perth Bells as they are also referred, are located in the Barrack Square precinct of Perth which is easily accessible by the Blue CAT bus, or you can take the ferry across if you are not in the city business district. The glass spire that sits atop the six-story cement bell chamber pierces the sky as if to let the heavens hear their lovely sound.
The tower was built to commemorate the new millennium and opened 10 December 2000. The set of 18 bells are one of the largest sets of change ringing bells in the world. Change ringing refers to the art of ringing tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns. Twelve of the bells were donated from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church which is located in Trafalgar Square, London, while the remaining six bells were donated by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and were cast from metals mined from Western Australia. This beautifully brings together the history of early Australia and the progression of Western Australia today.
To better explore the bell tower, you may either take an elevator to the top of the chamber or walk the circular stairwell. I highly recommend walking up if you are able. Since the staircase is circular and encased in glass, you get a spectacular view of every part of the city as you ascend – including the vibrant Swan River from which the bell tower took its name. You may take a short break from your climb on the third floor as there the docents host an informative short lecture on the tower and the bells. Depending on what day and time you visit, you may also have a chance to ring the bells. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the bell tower at a time when they were letting people ring the bells. It was such fun. One of the women that tried to pull the rope for bell ringing was lifted off the ground!
The base of the Swan Bell Tower has a beautiful reflecting pool, a variety of cafes to fill your tummy, shops to empty your wallet, and a walking and biking path to meander. Don’t miss out on this tourist delight if you find yourself in Perth, Western Australia. For more information, visit their website at: www.swanbells.com.au.