Events

Spring Lecture Series: The Chimes of Whanganui

Whanganui historian Scott Flutey gives a brief history and summary of bells in Whanganui, an introduction to bellringing, and his own development as a bellringer, or campanologist.
Fri, 1 Sep, 2023
5:30 pm
Free (koha appreciated)
Davis Theatre – Whare Tapere

Events

Spring Lecture Series: The Chimes of Whanganui

Whanganui historian Scott Flutey gives a brief history and summary of bells in Whanganui, an introduction to bellringing, and his own development as a bellringer, or campanologist.
Fri, 1 Sep, 2023
5:30 pm
Free (koha appreciated)
Davis Theatre – Whare Tapere

Revisiting a popular talk that has received many requests for repeat, Whanganui historian Scott Flutey will speak about the bells of Whanganui. “Whanganui has an unusually high number of bells, used over time as instruments, and signals, and for worship.”

The talk will include a brief history and summary of bells in Whanganui, an introduction to bellringing, and Scott’s own development as a bellringer, or campanologist. Campanology is the study, theory, and art of ringing bells.

Scott took up bellringing while living in Melbourne a few years ago: “I wanted to get really involved with heritage skills and trades – the ones that are difficult to engage with in New Zealand. I found Melbourne was a good place to learn a whole lot of different skills. I was working with a traditional upholsterer, I was doing hand-tooled woodwork, and I was doing bellringing in the evenings as an interest.”

On returning to Whanganui, he discovered Whanganui’s unique association with bells – something he hadn’t considered before that. “Like a lot of things in Whanganui, I had just taken it for granted that we had all of these bells around the town, but there is such a high proportion of bells in Whanganui, with fascinating stories and people connected to them.”

“It reflects the way Whanganui has always been more like a city, and as a city strived to be cosmopolitan and quite culturally rich. There is a lot of richness here and interest in music and the arts, and it goes back a very long time. The bells and chimes are just one expression of that.”

“The bells are also connected to civic pride, and aspirations of more musical offerings for the town in a public space.”

Scott says a number of influential Whanganui families were instrumental in the town’s development. “They had their fingers across a lot of different pies and were involved in different cultural endeavours. In civic endeavours, there are a few key people that keep coming up when you do Whanganui research – frequent names that were involved in lots of different things in the town.”

Of particular interest is the Burnett family, and the Oneida bell which Scott will discuss in his talk.  “The Oneida bell is one of a privately commissioned set of bells. It is a hemispherical bell. The half-circle is an unusual shape for a bell, and to have a family commissioning a set of bells to be installed at their house is very unusual – quite eccentric. It showed how wealthy they were, and where their interests lay. They were quite a well-known family in their day.”

The Oneida homestead was built in 1870. “The design was very much influenced by American Carpenter Gothic, which uses timber and takes very gothic proportions, like a church. The house is very ecclesiastical. They appear to have really liked churches and everything about them, so it’s not surprising that they would commission a set of bells.”

Around the time that the house was sold in 1976, the Oneida bells were donated to the Whanganui Regional Museum. “These bells are part of our wider story. I’m trying to get the momentum back up, for developing a plan for their future.” He is also aiming to gather a stronger movement of support for all the bells in Whanganui. “They are vulnerable. They need maintenance, and often the structures they are in are very old. It’s all part of that wider heritage space that a lot of our buildings are in, where they need the upkeep and maintenance and specialist attention.”

The lecture is the first of an annual series held in September of every year. On September 5th, National Library of New Zealand Curator, Dr Fiona Oliver will return to Whanganui to speak about William Harding’s photographic studio and the conventions of Victorian portraiture, in support of the exhibition that she curated which is currently showing at the Museum. Scott’s talk The Chimes of Whanganui will be held on Friday 1st September at 5.30pm, in the Davis Theatre on Watt Street. While bookings are not required, the Davis Theatre can take a maximum of 200 people – participants are encouraged to arrive early to ensure a seat.  Admission to the lecture is free of charge, though koha for the Museum is always appreciated. Light refreshments – wine, juice, tea or coffee – will be available.

Davis Theatre map