Gilletts and major thirds

oakcroft13 bill at h...
Wed Feb 20 00:02:59 GMT 2002

Andrew Aspland asks:
>What do we know about Gillett and Johnston and their
> attempts at major third bells? Some of their tenors
> have a distinctive major third sound especially
> those slightly earlier ones (1915 to 1925). 

I have the following recordings of complete Gilletts peals; South 
Croydon (1911), Egham, Heywood and Banstead (1921), Coventry (1927) 
and Cowley (a four, 1938).

As an aside, when Taylors were learning true harmonic tuning, it took 
them a long while to get their tierces down to the minor third. For 
many years they tended to produce peals where the tierces got flatter 
as the bells got smaller. Even by 1913 their peals still showed this 

It is not necessary to have a big bump in the waist to get a bell 
with a major third tierce. The bell in my collection with the 
sharpest tierce (sharper than the 'major third' bell with a bump in 
Taylor's museum) is a Wilnar bell of 1626, the old fifth at Dorking, 
which looks perfectly normal. Whitechapel have produced major third 
bells with the bump on the inside.

Back to Gillets. The Croydon, Banstead and Heywood bells have tenor 
tierces which are only 1/4 or 1/3 semitone below the major third - 
i.e. quite sharp. The tierces get flatter in the smaller bells and in 
all three cases bells the second, not the treble, is the bell with 
the flattest tierce. At Banstead and Heywood it is a perfect minor 
third. At Croydon, one supposes because the design had to extent 
across ten rather than eight bells, the flattest tierce is actually 
1/4 semitone flatter than the minor third. Whether this gradation in 
tierces is design or a side effect of the profiles used I do not know.

So, I could quite believe that Birstall has pretty sharp tierces in 
the heavier bells.

At Egham, on the other hand, despite them being the same year as 
Banstead and Heywood, the tierces do not slope so dramatically from 
back to front. The sharpest tierce is about 4/10 semitone above the 
minor third, the flattest 2/10 of a semitone sharp. By the time 
Coventry was cast (1927) the tierces were well down, the sharpest 
being 1/4 semitone sharp. And finally, the Cowley tierces are even 
closer to the minor third, the sharpest only being 2/10 of a semitone 

If you want the exact tunings in cents let me know, I can send them 
to you.

I haven't done enough investigation to know whether the different 
approaches to tierce tuning were design, or a side effect of other 
qualities sought in the bells. I do know that the Hemonys tuned their 
bells with a consistent tierce throughout the carillon. I would have 
to look the figures up if you're interested, they are not in my 

Bill H

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