The Bell Tower

Perth, Western Australia

The Bell Tower in Perth is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks.

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The Bell Tower
- Chiara Coetzee

Discover The Bell Tower in Perth

The Bell Tower, also known as the Swan Bell Tower, positioned where Perth meets the Swan River in Barrack Square, is a stunning glass spire considered one of the largest musical instruments on earth. The tower was custom-built to house the historically significant bells from Saint Martin-in-the-Fields Church, the parish church of Buckingham Palace in Trafalgar Square, London.

The 12 original bells were donated to Western Australia during the 1988 Australian bicentenary celebrations. To complement this set, 6 additional bells were cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The tower also recently installed the ANZAC Bell, a massive 6,500-kilogram bell expected to last over 500 years.

Today, the Bell Tower is an iconic landmark and one of the most visited attractions in Western Australia. It has a unique design, which resulted from a major architectural competition that now makes it easily recognisable. It not only houses these ancient bells, commemorates Australia's bicentenary, and celebrates numerous historic events. It also houses an event space available for corporate events, functions, and weddings.

The Bell Tower 1
Barrack Square and The Bell Tower Beyond - Michael Spencer

History of The Bell Tower's Bells

Early History

The bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields have a rich history that dates back to before the 14th century. Initially recast in the 16th century on the order of Queen Elizabeth I, they were later recast, again between 1725 and 1770 by the Rudhall family, a famous bell founders from Gloucester. These recastings were undertaken under the directive of the Prince of Wales, who later became King George II.

Ringing to Mark History

St Martin-in-the-Fields’ bells have rung to mark historical events throughout Australian history. In 1588, they celebrated England’s victory over the Spanish Armada. During World War II, they rang out in 1942 to commemorate the victory at El Alamein. The bells have also rung in the New Year at Trafalgar Square for over 275 years and have celebrated the coronation of every British monarch since King George II in 1727. Notably, they also rang out to honour the homecoming of Captain James Cook in 1771 after his voyage of discovery.

Journey to Western Australia

In the lead-up to 1870, rather than being recast again, the bells were tuned and restored at London's Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The initiative to relocate these historic bells to Western Australia came from Laith Reynolds, a local bell ringer and businessman. Their donation was arranged to coincide with the 1988 Australian bicentenary celebrations. They became the centrepiece of the Bell Tower in Perth, and their relocation made them unique as one of the few sets of royal bells, and the only such set known to have left England.

The Bell Tower 4
- Michael Spencer

Design and Structure of The Bell Tower

Architectural Design

The Bell Tower was designed by the local architectural firm Hames Sharley. Its distinctive glass-clad spire has spokes that radiate horizontally from a central axle, gradually narrowing as they ascend to the tower’s peak. This adds to the acoustics of the building, allowing it to channel sound out over the Swan River. The tower also has solid-steel rectangular columns and a six-storey bell chamber. encased in 30-metre-high copper sails and glass.

This bell chamber, housing the 18 bells, weighs 9 tonnes and requires structural support to handle the force exerted when the bells are rung. This was achieved by using reinforced concrete cast in situ, a design developed by structural engineering firm Arup. To manage the sound, the bell chamber incorporates soundproof louvres and doors, allowing the sound to be directed towards the city or the river as needed.

Surrounding The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower is situated in the redeveloped Barrack Square along the Barrack Street precinct. The surroundings include reflection pools, cafes, restaurants, shops, and cycling and walking paths. Originally, the tower was surrounded by a ceramic tiled path listing the youngest and oldest students from nearly every school in Western Australia from 1999. These tiles were temporarily removed during the Elizabeth Quay project in 2014 but have since been reinstalled in a new artwork to the east of the tower.

Reactions to The Bell Tower

Constructed at a cost of A$5.5 million, The Bell Tower was intended to commemorate the new millennium. Despite initial criticism from locals, including the Western Australian Premier Richard Court, who viewed it as an unnecessary expenditure, the project was completed on time and within budget. Today, The Bell Tower is one of the few millennium projects that continue to thrive.

The Bell Tower 6
The Copper Sails of The Bell Tower - Michael Spencer

The ANZAC Bell at The Bell Tower

To mark 100 years since the World War One armistice on 11th November 2018, a new bell was added to The Bell Tower. This bell, known as the "Great ANZAC Bell," was cast by VEEM Limited in Canning Vale. This bell is not only the largest swinging bell in Australia but unlike the other bells, it is swung electronically using a motor provided by a Belgian firm.

The ANZAC Bell also has 3D printing in its design, alongside traditional metals like copper and tin infused with gold during casting. It is rung daily at 12:00 pm, and at 1:00 pm on ANZAC Day, as a lasting commemoration of the sacrifices and bravery of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in various global conflicts.

The Bell Tower 3
- Tam

Things to Do at The Bell Tower

Exhibits and Displays

Visitors to The Bell Tower can engage in interactive exhibits on the history of the bells housed within, including the historic bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields church, dating back to 1725. They can also learn about the ancient art of bell ringing and marvel at rare artefacts displayed throughout the gallery walls.

Bell Chiming Experience

The interactive Bell Chiming Experience is a guided tour that allows visitors to participate in the art of bell ringing. Led by experienced guides, this 30-minute session on level 1 provides insights into the mechanics and history of bell ringing, culminating in a chance to chime the bells yourself. Upon completion, visitors receive a Bell Chiming Certificate as a souvenir.

ANZAC Bell Tours

For an enhanced experience of the impressive 6,500kg ANZAC Bell, consider booking the small group premium ANZAC Bell Tour. This tour delves into the history and significance of the ANZAC Bell, allowing visitors exclusive access to the ringing chamber.

Love Locks

Participate in the romantic tradition of Love Locks by personalising your own padlock at The Bell Tower. Design your lock at the reception desk before embarking on your visit, then lock it onto the designated public structure as you head further inside. A Romance Package includes two tickets for The Bell Tower Experience, along with an engraved Love Lock if you want to spoil the special someone in your life.

Observation Deck

Ascend to the Observation Deck on level 6 for panoramic views of Barack Square and the Swan River. For those inclined, there’s an opportunity to play a tune on the coin-operated Carillon.

The Bell Tower 2
View from the Observation Deck at The Bell Tower - Chiara Coetzee

Visiting The Bell Tower in Perth

Ensure your visit is well-planned by arriving 10 minutes before your scheduled tour time. The Bell Tower operates from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with the last entry at 3:45 pm, though hours may vary during private events. The Bell Tower also closes early occasionally for private functions, typically from 3pm onwards.

A General Entry ticket grants access to the exhibits and displays, including the St. Martin's bells from London. The visit begins with a self-guided tour, where visitors can freely explore the tower. Highlights include witnessing the Mark Creasy Turret Clock, crafted in 1885, which strikes on the hour with the iconic Westminster Chime. Visitors can ascend to the Observation Deck to enjoy panoramic views of Perth City.

At The Bell Tower it's important to time your visit to observe the ringing of the bells. Housed on level 4, there are live ringing demonstrations by volunteers on Thursdays and Sundays from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm and the ANZAC Bell, which rings daily at midday for one minute.

While the General Entry ticket allows access to most areas of The Bell Tower, it does not include the opportunity to chime the bells. To participate in bell chiming activities, consider booking the ANZAC Bell Tour or the Bell Tower Experience Tour, which also offer behind-the-scenes access to the bell ringing chamber.

The Bell Tower 5
- Daniel Lee

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What you need to know

The Bell Tower
Barrack Square, Riverside Drive, Perth Western Australia 6000
-31.958939, 115.858223
Tips before you visit