So called 'Simpson' tuning

Bill and Margaret Hibbert bill at h...
Fri Feb 15 21:44:55 GMT 2002

Everyone talks about 'Simpson' tuning. For example, Towcester (ex Todmorden)
are said to be Taylor's 10th Simpson-tuned ring. Steve Ivin challenged my
thinking on this a while ago and convinced me that to describe bells as
Simpson tuned was a misnomer. Ever since then I have used the term
'true-harmonic', which involved me in a major re-edit of my website! I
believe that Taylor's (and Whitechapel's) transition to true harmonic tuning
was a process, rather than an event. I suspect the same is true from
Gilletts and Warners as well but have not investigated the latter two yet.
But there's a question at the end of this message to which I don't know the
answer . . .

I guess Taylors started on this road when they rejected the thick and heavy
Grimethorpe profiles. A classic example of this is St Paul's Cathedral
(1878) where the tenor was supposedly cast two whole tones below the pitch
recommended by G. These bells show the typical old-style effect of sharp
hums, and primes which are a bit flat in the tenors and get very flat in the
trebles. The tierces, though a bit scattered about, are consistent across
all twelve bells.

Fast forwarding to Newcastle and Imperial (1892/3), we find that the hums
are becoming much more controlled - not down to the double octave yet, but
certainly getting flatter. However, the primes still get very flat in the
trebles. Imperial, probably just a bit later than Newcastle, have more
controlled hums and primes. In both these peals, the tierces are a bit
erratic but show a sort of progression, getting flatter as the bells get
smaller. The Imperial trebles have very flat tierces, perhaps due to their
experimental-looking shape.

By 1897 (Towcester back eight) Taylors had fixed the problem of the primes,
and produced a peal when the hums and primes are substantially in octaves
(my definition of 'true-harmonic'). However, the tierces still show the
progression from front to back, and if anything the treble of the 1897 eight
at Towcester has a flatter tierce even than the Imperial trebles.

By 1903 (Lahore) the hums and tierces are spot on, and the tierces are much
better, but still show a slight slope from front to back.

Henfield (1913) are quite similar, smashing hums and primes and tierces
sloped from front to back. However, at Henfield for the first time the
quints are tuned almost spot on - not that I believe that quints ever have
much effect on the sound of a bell.

At the same time, Taylors were experimenting with tuning in different
temperaments. St Pauls are tuned equal, but with an enormous stretch to
offset the flat primes in the trebles, and an anomaly around 6, 7 and 8.
Both Newcastle and Imperial are tuned in an odd sort of temperament that has
some similarity to Pythagorean tuning. Newcastle are not stretched
significantly, Imperial are. Towcester are tuned equal, with no stretch to
speak of. And Lahore and Henfield are both in a temperament close to just
tuning, with no stretch.

The fascinating question, to which I do not know the answer, is the date
Simpson first went to Loughborough. His papers of course were published in
1895 and 1896. However, Rayleigh's paper of 1890 contains some really
important research and insights. Had Simpson been talking to Taylors in the
late 1880s and early 1890s? Or did he not make contact with them until
later, when Taylors had already broken the back of the problem?

Someone out there must know the answer . . .

Bill H

More information about the Bell-historians mailing list