In 1924, fundraising began for a carillon at Sydney University, to remember the undergraduates, graduates, and staff who died in World War One.

When they hear the glorious peals of the carillon, young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams. Justice Street.

Fundraising poster for Sydney University War Memorial Carillon

The project was not without controversy. Some feared  the old clock tower could be damaged by the installation of the bells and the carillon mechanism. They agitated for a separate campanile, which they argued would produce a purer sound. Fortunately,  the nay-sayers were overruled by those  who insisted the fallen deserved only the best, and that the best  location was the prominent  clock tower.

The bells were cast in England by  John Taylor & Sons, at Loughborough, Leicestershire and the Whitechapel Foundry in London. They  arrived aboard  the  steamship Port Gisborne, and were unloaded at Woolloomooloo. Next, they were placed on horse-drawn trolleys for the final stage of their journey.  What an amazing sight it must have been.

New bells for the Sydney University Carillon 1928

Leaving  Woolloomooloo

The procession rolled on via George Street and Railway Square.

Bells for the carillon at Sydney University

The largest bell was dedicated to the A.I.F as a whole. and had been open to public subscription.

The bells were  in place for Anzac Day that year.


The inauguration of the carillon was the keynote of an impressive service  at the University of Sydney on Anzac  Day…..The audience stood with bowed heads while at intervals of five seconds the great bell tolled 18 times for those who fell in the war, 18 being the youngest age at which youths would volunteer. It was the first time a note was struck by the carillon, the only instrument of its kind in Australia.

Chopin’s Funeral March was played that first day, followed by the National Anthem.  A carillon has fixed bells, and is operated  via a form of  keyboard. Virtually any tune can be played.


More than three years after the bells were installed, a dedication service was held for the University honour roll.  An article in the Sydney Morning Herald spoke of those who contributed to the carillon, and  paid tribute to those who gave their lives.

By 1973 it was considered that the tone of the upper half of the carillon needed to be improved. The bells were shipped back to England to be melted down and re-cast.  The job was supposed to take about six months, but the foundry, once again  John Taylor and Sons  of Loughborough, had a few problems. The worst was a break-in, when several thousand pounds of  bell metal (mostly copper) was stolen;

‘Apart from the financial loss, it has been discovered that it was an inside job, and two of our men are no longer with us. One of these was a foundry man and while he may have been only one man he was a large percentage of our bell-moulders.’

It was 1977 when the new bells finally arrived at the university and were lifted to the tower by crane. An additional five had been ordered, taking the total to 54.

New carillon bells at Sydney University 1977

Moving the bells into the tower.


This high tower is an aviary of bells,

Bronze music’s cage birds, captive here in stone.

In octaves disciplined the sweet-tuned shells

Of their wide throats echo each measured tone.

By Winifred G. Birkett

Click HERE to listen to  and watch a wonderful ‘duet’ being played between the carillon and the university’s  organ.

Crillon being played at Sydne yUniversity

Carillon being played.

  1. Wonderful story. And thank you for linking the video. It was absolutely beautiful. May I suggest that when you add a link to your post you set it to open in a new link so you don’t automatically lose your reader. Often they don’t come back once they have left the page. Love all your posts.

    • Pauline

      Hi Diane. Thanks, and especially for that advice about the links. It had never crossed my mind and I have no idea how to do it, but will see what I can do. Might have to check with my webmaster!

  2. Hi Pauline

    I have a medal identical to one of your pics in this blog.

    Sydney University War Memorial Carillon

    Do you know anything about this item as I cannot find another one online.

    Was it made in 1928?

    Who received them?

    How many were produced?

    Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

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