It is a Dutch custom to give a bell to commemorate an auspicious occasion, and it is for this reason that the Carillion was officially presented to the City of Wanganui on the 21st of May 1981. It was given to mark the opening of Farm Equipment Company’s new factory – the first owned by the Dutch company P J Zweggers en Zonen outside Europe.
The bells, cast in Holland by Petit and Fritzen, were considered an appropriate gift to mark the bond between the Netherlands and Wanganui. Petit and Fritzen were founded in 1660 and has cast many of the famous bells around the world over the last three and a half centuries. The bell tower is 5.7 metres high and sits atop a 2-metre plinth and was installed by Emmett Brothers.
The Wanganui Carillion is comprised of eighteen various sized bells and can be played manually on the two octave keyboard housed in the plinth under the bell tower or controlled by an electronic pulse. It plays at least once each hour and has a range of pre-set tunes contained on a 300 millimetre wide plastic tape, programmed with a series of little holes. When the tape moves, each hole activates a trigger, which in turn sets off a bell.
At the opening ceremony Mayor Ron Russell officially accepted the gift of the carillion on behalf of the city of Wanganui and Muriel Tinker, a well-known local pianist and organist, was engaged to play the bells.