[Bell Historians] Taylor & Harrison

David Bryant djb122 at y...
Wed Feb 13 20:57:21 GMT 2002

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People don't seem to appreciate that Taylors and Mears were probably more
interested in designing a bell more for its for change ringing dynamics
rather than the musical affect.
Take Imperial Institute, in a picture I have the front bells are very tall
and long, and the larger bells are short and squat (as is Dunham Massy).
All used to be in timber headstocks.

To be honest, I think this only looks at half the picture. The reason the b=
ells are made longer in the waist at the front end was certainly partially =
due to ringing dynamics, to hang the bells out further. Flange tops on a nu=
mber of 1910s/20s Taylor and GIllett front ends of 10 and 12 were also for =
this reason. However, there were musical reasons too. The trebles of higher=
number rings have to have enough metal to give them 'guts' and make them a=
udible among the larger bells, and one way to do this was to lengthen the w=
aist, which will inevitable distort the harmonics to some extent, but is pr=
eferable to a really thick bell. Take York Minster as an example. The trebl=
es of 12 are slightly lengthened in the waist and sound a little strange, a=
lthough very nice, on their own. Among the big bells they are clearly audib=
le because they have the necessary power. The extra treble, on the other ha=
nd, is of standard profile, is very thick and does not sound too good - it'=
s TOO thick!

Bill Hibbert's kindly sent me photos of the Institute bells, and I don't th=
ink the back bells are short waisted - they are fairly close to modern prof=
ile. Most mid-Victorian founders would cast short bells by preference until=
they adopted Simpson tuning, be they for rings or as single bells; in the =
1860s Grimthorpe encouraged very short and thick (and nasty!) bells. It was=
only with the front ends that founders theoretically needed to cast them l=
onger to hang them out and get the timing right, although that said the nas=
ty 1922 trebles at Taunton are very short and consequently strike far too f=

What I'm trying to say is that the designs of particularly the smaller bell=
s of higher number rings have to be a compromise between mechanical and mus=
ical considerations, but that Taylor's at least were fully aware of the lat=
ter, particularly in the latter decades of the 19th century, and were addre=
ssing it in addition to mechanical factors.


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