The bells, a 1928 Taylor recast of an earlier twelve, have had over 200 peals rung on them. They are the eighth heaviest ring measured by tenor weight but the fifth heaviest in terms of the total weight of 10.5 tons. They are challenging to ring well because of tower movement and some frame movement though their magnificent sound is usually considered more than sufficient compensation for the effort involved.
Along with the ring of twelve there are four semitone bells and combinations of these give five distinct rings – the Twelve (and its subsets the Back Ten and the Back Eight), the Harmonic Minor Ten, the Clare Ten (and its subset the C# Eight), the Middle Eight and the Front Eight.
The first peal on the modern twelve was in 1928. The 6b was first pealed in 1960, the 5# and 9# in 1961 and the 2# in 2018.
The previous twelve, with a 50 cwt tenor, were cast by Taylors in 1869 to Grimthorpe’s specification, and at the time the third heaviest of the 24 rings of twelve then existing. In their nearly 60 years existence they were pealed only 6 times of which just one was a twelve-bell peal. By 1875 there were also three semitone bells but they were never rung to peals and may never have been rung at all.
Before 1870 the cathedral tower contained a one-ton octave dating back to 1611 but they were never pealed. Five of these bells are now in the cloisters.