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The Norfolk Carillon Tower – A towering memorial to the county’s war dead

July 2020

The Norfolk Carillon Tower, dedicated on 17 June 1925, was built to honour the men, and one woman, from Norfolk County, who were lost in The Great War. A carillon is a musical instrument that is usually housed in a bell tower on a church or other public building.

Funds were raised by Norfolk County citizens, and it was built on a site donated from Simcoe High School.

It is owned by Norfolk County, and administered by the Heritage and Culture Division.

The 60 foot high, 22 foot square, Norman architectural style stone tower, built with limestone quarried at nearby Hagersville. It is equipped with 23 bells, the heaviest bell, called the bourdon, being 1,568 lbs and the smallest being 60 lbs, and it’s 2-octave carillon is one of the world’s best.

The bourdon is the bell that chimes the hour.

Five memorial plaques are placed at the base of the tower. On the front wall, on the left side of the door is the plaque which lists the names of Norfolk’s 217 soldiers who gave their lives in World War I, along with 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.

A third plaque on the North wall commemorates the 133rd Norfolk County Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and honours the battles in which the soldiers fought.

A fourth plaque contains a sailor lost during the Afghanistan War: Petty Officer 2nd Class Douglas Craig Blake, CD, who died on 3 July 2010.

The East wall facing the High School has a plaque with the naves of the twelve soldiers who were students at the school prior to enlisting in The Great War.

The single door on the front side is framed by both smooth and carved pillars, with a carved arch atop the solid wood door.

The Norfolk Carillon Tower can be found on Norfolk Street (Highway 24) in the Town of Simcoe. A small group of volunteers keep the bells chiming throughout the year, which can be heard by residents and visitors as they peruse the downtown shops or sit in nearby Grant Anderson Park or Lynnwood Park, along the shore of Crystal Lake.

It is one of only 10 remaining manually operated carillons in Canada, a list that includes the Peace Tower in Ottawa, the Rainbow Bridge and St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, and is the second carillon ever installed in Canada; the first one being at the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto.

Sources: https://www.norfolkcounty.ca/living/heritage-culture/norfolk-war-memorial-carillon-tower, https://www.opencaching.us/viewcache.php?cacheid=2603, https://www.toronto.com/news-story/5252184-the-bells-of-simcoe.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-norfolk-carillon-tower-a-towering-memorial-to-the-countys-war-dead/

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