About this objectThe large bronze bell, or as it commonly known the Fairbridge ‘Big Bell’ was cast by Thomas Mears, London, 1837 and came to Fairbridge Farm School in 1952. It hung adjacent to the railway iron bell near the kitchen for some time before being moved to the chapel in the 1960’s. After Fairbridge closed in 1973 the bell was presented to St Barnabas Church, Orange. When the original church was demolished and replaced by a modern new church, the bell was not installed. The church donated it to the Molong Historical Society in 1982. It was then erected on the grounds at the back of the museum.
The bell has a rich and interesting history leading back to the Woolloomooloo Fish Markets building, owned by Sungravure Ltd, in 1951 when it was ‘discovered’. It is assumed the bell was used with the fish market clock in 2 locations and prior to this the bell was believed to have come from the Haymarket Market House on George Street. A researched history has been compiled on the bell by Hayley Lavers in 2020 with supporting documentation from archivist and bell historian, Chris Pickford.
While the bell hangs in retirement at the museum it did ring out on Remembrance Day 2018, to acknowledge the boys from Fairbridge who were in the Armed Services. It was also 80 years since Fairbridge opened for children. It was rung again, twice in 2020, to make a recording and it set the town dogs into an accompanying chorus.
So while the ‘big bell’ of Fairbridge is often discounted and not included in the written and oral histories of Fairbridge it is an early pioneering artifact of colonial Australia, with a rich and interesting history of its own. It has quite possibly tolled out the hour for near on a century across Haymarket and Woolloomooloo and then sat quietly in retirement for another 50 years in Molong. I hope with the accompanying researched history, and any future research, that it continues to be appreciated by all that enquire.
Hayley Lavers for Molong and District Historical Society, 2020