A Newer Pavilion For An Older Bell

April 24, 2013 | by Hidden City Staff


Christ Church Collectible at the Bicentennial | Postcard by Art Color Cards, 1976

Christ Church Collectible at the Bicentennial | Postcard by Art Color Cards, 1976

A colonial historic site is seeking a new home for its iconic bell. Christ Church, the oldest Anglican church in the country, has reacquired its original, circa-1702 bell, and it wants to share. The 25″ tall, 350 pound Great Bell was cast at the same Whitechapel Foundry in London that would cast the Liberty Bell half a century later. And unlike that more famous bell, this one ain’t broke.

The Great Bell predates even Christ Church’s famous steeple, the feature that made it the tallest building in America for some time. It hung first from a tree, then in a belfry of the wooden building that preceded the historic building we recognize as Christ Church now.

Ding dong: the 311 year old bell still rings a pretty tune | Image: Christ Church of Philadelphia

Ding dong: the 311 year old bell still rings a pretty tune | Image: Christ Church of Philadelphia

When that building and its steeple were completed in 1754, the church purchased new bells and gave the Great Bell over to St. Peter’s Church, where it stayed until 1842, when it was then given to Christ Church Hospital, a home for indigent women. In 1961, that hospital became Kearsley Rehab & Nursing Center—named for John Kearsley, a physician and minister at Christ Church—and they moved to new facilities in Wynnefield. In 2011, Kearsley was purchased by a private retirement company who still operates the facility as Kearsley, but they divested the organization of its historic records and artifacts, including the Great Bell. And now, it’s back home at Christ Church.

Last week, they put out an RFQ for firms to compete for a new display facility on the grounds of the historic church. Up to four design proposals will be selected for review in August, with the winning design to be chosen on October 17th. The Great Bell project is then to be completed and dedicated July 4, 2014. For more information and to view the full RFQ, go HERE.



  1. pmg says:

    Christ Church is very old, but it is neither the oldest Anglican/Episcopal congregation in the country nor the oldest Anglican/Episcopalian church building, not by a long shot.

  2. Ilp says:

    Ok, so what is?

  3. Jason says:

    Actually pmg, you’re not totally correct there. Christ Church was founded in 1695 as an Anglican Church… a long time ago, but as you’ve pointed out not the oldest in the country by a long a shot. There are number of them in the south that almost a century older. However the Anglican Church is also known as the Church of England and so once we declared our independence it obviously wouldn’t do to worship in an English church. Christ Church became the first Anglican Church in the country to recognize itself as an Episcopal Church. Today most consider the oldest Episcopal Churches to be the same as the oldest Anglican Churches, as it is after all the basically the same religion and the congregations still go by the same names. However as Christ Church was the first church to become an Episcopal Church, it is not totally incorrect to refer to it as the oldest Episcopal Congregation in the country.

    In any event you are right to point out that the wording in the article that describes it as oldest Anglican church in the country is incorrect no matter how you slice it.

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