Clock Chime Tunes
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History and Examples You Can Hear

Clock Chime Tunes Research

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Clocks that have a chiming movement (generally, three winding holes) typically come with the "Westminster" tune. Sometimes clocks have multiple tunes that are selectable (typically three tunes are called a "triple-chime"). The most common combination on triple-chime clocks is Westminster, St. Michael's, and Whittington. The chimes and their origins are explained below. Where chime sequences are indicated, the lowest chime is represented by the numeral "1" and each higher chime in the ascending sequence is represented by "2", "3", etc. In our research we have discovered that there are variants on many of the chime tunes. So, if your clock plays it slightly differently, don't faint... it's normal!

Westminster Chime Tune History - Antique Clocks Guy

Westminster Chimes (listen)

The Westminster chimes are the same notes first used on the clock in the University Church tower of St. Mary, Cambridge, England, and in 1859, selected for the St Stephen's Clock Tower in the House of Parliament in London. There, the hour is still struck on the famous old bell, "Big Ben", after the four famous phrases have been played on the smaller bells. The music was inspired by a phrase from Handel’s symphony, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth", and the words and music were arranged by Wm. Crotch in 1793.

Lord through this hour,
Be Thou our guide
So, by Thy power No foot shall slide.
1st Quarter:
2nd Quarter:
2,4,3,1 2,3,4,2
3rd Quarter:
4,2,3,1 1,3,4,2 4,3,2,1
4th Quarter:
2,4,3,1 2,3,4,2 4,2,3,1 1,3,4,2
1=D, 2=G, 3=A, 4=B

Whittington Chime Tune History ~ Antique Clocks GuyWhittington Chimes, c.1950 to Present ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Whittington Chimes, Bawo & Dotter and Jacques ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Whittington Chimes, Elliott ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Whittington Chimes (listen)

The legendary Whittington Chimes rang in the Church of St. Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, London in the 16th Century. Legend has it that a penniless boy, Dick Whittington (1354-1423) heard them as he ran away to escape his drudgery as an ill-treated house waif. The chimes seemed to say to him, "Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London Town!" So, back he went and persisted in his labors until he finally did become Lord Mayor of London Town and served three terms! For further research on this most interesting story click the following links (1) (2).

Turn again, Whittington,
Lord Mayor of Londontown

1st Quarter:
2nd Quarter:
8,2,7,3,6,4,5,1 8,6,4,2,7,5,3,1
3rd Quarter:
8,7,4,3,6,5,2,1 2,4,6,8,5,2,3,1 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
4th Quarter:
8,2,7,3,6,4,5,1 8,6,4,2,7,5,3,1 8,7,4,3,6,5,2,1 2,4,6,8,5,2,3,1
1=low D , 2=E, 3=F#, 4=G, 5=A, 6=B, 7=C#, 8=high D

There were apparently multiple versions of the "Whittington" tune. Later clocks, generally 1950 and on, used a different version of the tune, and we know that the big tubular-chime movements made by Peerless in Germany for Bawo & Dotter used yet another configuration that was subsequently used by the Jacques firm and also appears in some Gustav Becker clocks. As if this weren't complicated enough, another version was used by Elliott of London and several other English and German makers... and Seth Thomas. Are you confused yet? Above are scores of several versions of the tune for your review. The playable tune is the version used by Herschede.

St Michael's Episcopal Church, Charleston SC ~ Antique Clocks Guy St. Michael's Clock Chime Tune - Antique Clocks Guy

St, Michael’s Chimes (listen)

A true story of adventure surrounds St. Michael’s Chimes: The bells, cast in London, were installed in the St. Michael Church steeple in Charleston, S.C. in 1764. During the Revolunary War, the British took the bells back to England. After the war, a Charleston merchant bought them and sent them back to America. In 1823, when cracks were discovered in them, they were sent back to London to be recast.

In 1862, during the Charleston siege, they were moved to Columbia, S.C. for safe keeping, but Sherman’s army set fire to the area, and nothing but fragments of the bells remained. These were sent back to London once more, where the original molds still stood, and again, recast. In February 1867, the eight bells were reinstated in the St. Michael steeple, and on March 21st they rang out joyously, seeming to say:"Home again, home again, from a foreign land!" There was a great rejoicing by the entire city as the bells rang out. Since then, they have endured a cyclone, earthquake and fire unharmed.

1st Quarter:
2nd Quarter:
8,2,3,4,7,5,6,1 5,4,3,6,2,7,8,1
3rd Quarter:
7,8,3,4,2,5,6,1 5,7,3,8,4,2,6,1 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
4th Quarter:
8,2,3,4,7,5,6,1 5,4,3,6,2,7,8,1 7,8,3,4,2,5,6,1 5,7,3,8,4,2,6,1
1=low F , 2=G, 3=A, 4=Bb, 5=C, 6=D, 7=E, 8=high F

Shubert Ave Maria Chime Tune

Schubert's Ave Maria Chimes (listen)

In the early 1500's. King James V banished the Douglas Clan to Scotland where Ellen Douglas lived in hiding. He did so because Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus had imprisoned the child king during the early days of his rein. In 1825 Franz Peter Schubert wrote Ellen's Song, which was a prayer for the safety for herself and her father as they hid in the forest. Some scholars disagree with this, so we refer you to the Schubert Wikipedia article for more information.There are numerous versions of the Ave Maria song written by Charles Gounod, J. Stone, Franz Liszt, Biebel, and Schubert with the most popular being those of Gunod and Schubert/Liszt, the latter displayed above.

Lourdes Basilica, France ~ Antique Clocks Guy Ave Maria of Lourdes Chime Tune ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Ave Maria De Lourdes Chimes (listen)

The Ave Maria of Lourdes chorus is a popular clock chime, first used by the German firm, Hamburg American Clock Co (HAC) of Schramberg, and later by a host of French firms. Though it shares a tune name with the Schubert Ave Maria (see above) the Lourdes tune is distinctly different.

The Ave Maria of Lourdes tune originated from the Lourdes Basilica in France, a holy site said to have witnessed an apparation of the Virgin Mary. The Lourdes Basilica clock plays the Ave Maria of Lourdes tune on the hour - no quarter hour strike. This tune is played on five bells. The quarter hour pattern does not have lyrics, but the hour chorus does.

Many contemporary clocks by Jauch used it. Gazo clocks play the same tune, usually paired with Westminster or on rare occasion the Colombian Anthem (often misspelled "Columbian". The Jauch/Gazo clocks have two twin rods and two hammers for quicker succession - other makers had two hammers striking one rod.

It is slightly confusing as all Jauch/Gazo clocks just say 'Ave Maria' on the chime selector, but the number of hammers is a clue what it will actually play. The Lourdes/Westminster model has seven hammers, the Lourdes/Columbian Anthem model has ten, and the Schubert model has eleven.

The linked tune above was recorded from a Gazo Rancho Bernardo model.

Fatima Portugal Cathedral ~ Antique Clocks Guy Ave Maria de Fatima Chime Tune ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Ave Maria De Fatima ~ Portugal (listen)

Yet a third "Ave Maria" originates from Fatima in Portugal, home to another sighting of the Virgin Mary's apparation. The composer is unknown.

On domestic clocks, it is typically found on 'Reguladora' brand clocks made for the Portugese market (although multitudes exist in Latin America). These are likely made by German maker Urgos. Hermle had a premium clock that also played the tune. These are all post-WW2 and contemporary in nature, but good quality and play this interesting tune.

The recording is from a Reguladora (Urgos) clock.

Christ Church Oxford Cathedral ~ Antique Clocks Guy Oxford/Parsifal Chime Tune - Antique Clocks Guy

Oxford Chimes (listen)

This unusual tune is apparently also known as "Magdalen" or "Parsifal". But there is some confusion/debate over this. The graphic above is labeled as the "Parsifal" chime pattern though it does not match the Oxford/Magdalen recording... go figure. "Parsifal" was the final opera written by Richard Wagner and he apparently "borrowed" the tune from a German Abbey! The plot thickens: Fortunately, we received a note from a knowledgeable organist in NYC including additional links that really explain this whole "Oxford-Magdalen-Parsifal Chimes Affair" (sounds like a sordid affair in a seedy novel, doesn't it?) a lot better than we can, so click here to learn "...the rest of the story!"

Canterbury Chime Tune History - Antique Clocks Guy

Canterbury Chimes (listen)

In 1913 the “Canterbury Chimes” was added to the Whittington and Westminster chimes on Herschede Hall Clocks. Some accounts we've read say tune was composed by Charles Eisen, "a gifted American pianist," especially for Frank Herschede, but the Herschede catalogue reads a little differently, stating that the tune was written by a factory employee who was visiting England... Who, knows, maybe Charles Eisen was an employee... and a gifted pianist!

1st Quarter:
2nd Quarter:
2,4,6,3,1,5 4,6,2,5,1,3
3rd Quarter:
1,6,4,2,3,5 4,6,2,5,1,3 6,4,2,3,5,1
4th Quarter:
3,1,6,4,2,5 4,6,2,5,1,3 3,1,6,4,2,5 4,6,5,3,2,1
1=D, 2=E, 3=F#, 4=G, 5=A, 6=B

Trinity Church Trinity Chime Tune Variations (2)

Trinity Chimes (listen)

The six bell Trinity chime is a popular feature on many chime clocks and named after the Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street in New York. It was written and copyrighted by Charles A. Jacques in 1910 for exclusive use on his Elite and Monastery chime clocks sold through Bawo & Dotter of New York. Bawo and Dotter also private-labeled both tallcase and mantle clock movements for retail sale in cases manufactured by a variety of companies, including the Royal Furniture Company of Grand Rapids. When Jacques joined Geo. Borgfeldt & Company, he took his copyrighted chimes with him. When Jacques died in 1920, the rights for Trinity went to his son Henri C. Jacques and Borgfeldt, however Henri found work in being a lawyer so only Borgfeldt made any use out of the chime. Junghans (one of Borgfeldt’s clock suppliers) was also given permission to use the tune on their own chime clocks during the 1930’s onward.

1st Quarter:
6 5 4 3 2 1
2nd Quarter:
3 5 4 2 3 1 6 4 5 3 2 1
3rd Quarter:
5 4 3 2 6 3 6 1 5 4 3 2 6 5 4 3 2 1
4th Quarter:
3 5 4 2 3 1 6 4 5 3 2 1 5 4 3 2 6 3 6 1 5 4 3 2
Notes: 1=Low D, 2=G, 3=A, 4=B, 5=C, 6=High D

Winchester Cathedral ~ Antique Clocks Guy Winchester Chime Tune ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Winchester (or Wynchestre) Chimes (listen)- turn up QuickTime volume first.

Winchester chimes have a very interesting history. The Norman conquerors of England did not like the fantastic cathedral chimes of the Saxons, so Bishop Walkilin, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, demolished and rebuilt the Winchester chimes in 1093. The cathedral's central tower that contained the chimes fell in 1107, but soon was rebuilt. This edifice forms a substantial part of the present cathedral, located in Hampshire, England. The lyrics of the Winchester chime is:

"O Art Divine, exalted blessing!
Each celestial charm expressing!
Proudest gift the gods bestow
Sweetest chimes that mortals know."

1st Quarter:
2nd Quarter:
1,2,4,6,5,3 6,4,2,5,3,1
3rd Quarter:
2,3,6,5,1,2 6,2,4,3,5,1 6,4,2,1,3,5
4th Quarter:
1,2,4,6,5,3 6,4,2,5,3,1 2,3,6,5,1,2 6,2,4,3,5,1
Notes: 1=C, 2=D, 3=E, 4=F, 5=G, 6=A

Beethoven's 9th Chime Tune - Ode To Joy

Beethoven's 9th Symphony Chimes (listen)- turn up QuickTime volume first.

Ludwig Van Beethoven lived from 1770 to 1827. One of the greatest and most radical composers of all time. A tormented genius, who went deaf in later life and never hear his final works. His nine symphones are probably his greatest achievement, each one an unrivalved masterpiece, but he also wrote 5 piano concertos, piano sonatas, string quartets and one opera, Fidelio

Composed in 1823, this famous melody comes from the final movement of Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony No.9 in d minor, Op.125. It is a setting for choir and orchestra of the German poet Schiller's 1785 poem An die Freude. The Ode to Joy was adopted as Europe's anthem by the Council of Europe in 1972. The first lines read:

Oh friends, no more of these sad tones!
Let us rather raise our voices together
In more pleasant and joyful tones.

Christians quickly recognize this tune as Hymn To Joy:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of Glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

Havenu Shalom Aleichem Chimes (listen).

Traditional/familiar Israeli folk tune meaning "We brought peace to you" or "Peace be upon you". Shalom can also mean "hello", but in this context it means "peace". To our knowledge this tune exists only on a handful of clocks with a special Urgos tubular movement.

Literal Translation

Havenu - "we brought you"
Shalom - "peace"
Aleichem - "to you" (upon you)

View the full lyric here
View the dance, vocal and instrumental here.

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We would like to give thanks to Justin Olson for his many contributions to this page.