Built with funds raised by the citizens of Norfolk County on a site donated from Simcoe High School land, the Norfolk War Memorial Carillon Tower is owned by the people of Norfolk County, and administered by the Heritage and Culture Division.
The bronze bells were cast in 1923 in Croydon, England at the Gillett & Johnston Bell-foundry, famous for having perfected bell tuning. G&J cast bells extra thick, then ground the inside surfaces on vertical lathes to produce 5 tones: the strike note, one octave lower and higher, a minor third and a fifth.
There are 23 bells, all stationary, rung by clappers which strike the inside when the carillonneurs play, and by the hammers which hit the outside when the clock strikes. Westminster chimes play every quarter hour. The larges bell, called the bourdon bell, weighs 1,568 pounds, and rings the hours.
The carillon is played from a baton keyboard with 23 keys, one for each bell, which the carillonneur plays with the side of the fist. A duplicate set of keys for the heavier clappers of the lower octave can be played by the feet. Wires, rods and levers connect the keys to the bells.
Delighted with this carillon, Gillett & Johnson moved it into the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, England in 1924. World-famous carillonneur Josef Denyn came from Belgium to play it. Radio carried its sound around the British Empire, and its sweet and pure tone was widely acclaimed.
The tower was built between 1924-1925 from limestone quarried at Hagersville. It measures 60 feet tall by 22 feet square.
On March 26, 1925, Gillett & Johnston shipped the carillon to Simcoe, and their representative came to supervise its installation in the tower. The belfry is behind the open windows at the top.
Dedication of the Norfolk War Memorial Carillon Tower was on June 17, 1925 with a mammoth parade from the Armouries to an impressive ceremony with an enormous attendance at the Carillon Tower. The carillon was played by the Canadian carillonneur Percival Price.
On the front wall on the left of the door is the plaque which lists the names of Norfolk’s 217 soldiers who gave their lives in World War I. Besides the men, one nursing sister died. The plaque on the right side of the door lists the 141 Norfolk soldiers who gave their lives in World War II.
The plaque on the North wall commemorates the 133rd Norfolk County Battalion and the First World War battles its soldiers fought in. On the East wall facing the High School is the plaque naming the twelve soldiers who were students there before giving their lives during that war.
Eighteen volunteer carillonneurs ages 20-75 play live concerts on weekends from April to January, and nightly in December for the Simcoe Christmas Panorama of Lights. The carillonneur is visible through the left front window.