Cathedral Bells Re-sound Again

Thursday 3 August 2023

Waiapu Cathedral bells will be ringing out across Napier city again from this Sunday for church services and for special occasions.

The bells have been silent this year after the Cathedral’s seismic assessment raised concerns about the structure of the bell tower where the bells are located and played.

The Cathedral commissioned a risk assessment by a specialist engineer giving the building’s owners, the Waiapu Board of Trustees, confidence to return the decisions about safety to  ‘local management’ by the Dean of the Cathedral, subject to the presentation of a Management Plan.  Dean Di Woods has had that plan approved which includes safety protocols, and provisions restricting the number of people accessing the tower and the use of the corridor running under it.

“People’s safety is our priority, and anyone who has visited the cathedral this year will know that we’ve kept the bell tower largely out of bounds, except for essential  maintenance– and so sadly, no bells,” says Dean Di Woods.

“We are delighted that we can have some careful use of the tower again. Anyone who needs to go up the tower to retrieve archives, for maintenance, or to ring the bells can only be there for a short time, and we will know they are there.” 

Late last year, the Cathedral put out a call for anyone interested in becoming a bell ringer and a number of people had responded before the earthquake assessment stopped the bells.  These people are being contacted again and, if they are comfortable with the safety provisions, may start their bellringing lessons again.

Waiapu Anglican Cathedral is a significant feature of Napier’s Art Deco Quarter and is the focus for church services, civic services and other ceremonies, for which extra bellringers would be useful. 

“Bell ringers don’t need to attend Sunday services, although they are welcome.  It’s a task that would suit people who appreciate getting up early, enjoy music and exercise, and would like a very different hobby that people can enjoy hearing rung out across the city,” says Dean Di Woods.

Experienced bell ringer Keith James has been ringing the bells at the cathedral for over 40 years and says that people don’t need to know how to read music, although some knowledge of music helps. 

“Bell ringers play familiar hymns and tunes on the bells and learn these by the bell numbers, 1 – 8, with symbols indicating long or shorter notes. We also learn the special peal sequences that start and close a service.” 

Mr James says that a good level of fitness also is useful.  While there are no thick ropes or heavy bells involved because there are cords to pull the clappers rather than the bells, arm dexterity and speed is needed for many of the peals.  There are also the two flights of stairs to get up the tower.

Anyone else interested in having their music heard across the city, can contact the Waiapu Cathedral office administrator on 021 754 161 or email

Waiapu Cathedral in Napier CBD