Re (2): [Bell Historians] True-harmonic twelves &c

s.ivin at n... s.ivin at n...
Fri Feb 22 12:11:53 GMT 2002

Chris Pickford writes:

> I would have disagreed quite strongly with the view that Taylors moved
> towards true-harmonic tuning over a lengthy period. 
> I think that they got to true-harmonic in one step, but then perfected the tonal 
> quality (separate things)

David Bryant writes:

> I predict that Bill's going to disagree vehemently with you on this one Chris! 

For what it is worth, I think Chris is on the right lines. The really crucial
stage was reached when it was realised that the fundamental could be sharpened
by thickening the crown and the shoulder corner. Then of course it was necessary
to acquire machinery to get it tuned correctly - the long-reach lathe must have
been a colossal investment in 1896. (In passing, I'm not sure that 'the baronet'
had much to do with the scene in the 1890's, but certainly without his earlier 
patronage Taylors would have been insufficiently strong financially to develop as 
they did. Anyway - just consider Wells tenor 1887 which at 57cwt in C is not far 
removed from the 50cwt in D (?D flat) of the old Worcester peal, and is I think a
pretty good sound.) 
Chris quotes St Peter vs St Paul in Bedford. An even better comparison is Dunstable
in early 1896, and Bedford (St Paul) in autumn. The two tenors are characterised by 
quite sharp fundamentals - nearly a whole tone - and slightly sharp hums - about 
half a semitone. The only tuning on the Bedford tenor was half-cwt removed from the 
crown. Ampthill & Cardington were installed in Beds. over the following year or two
and both have one or two bells with significantly flat fundamentals, as do the
9th & 10th at Bedford.

Perhaps equally crucial was the acquisition of a set of Koenig forks in the 1890's.

The curious thing is how they managed to do one or two true harmonic tenors before
this time - e.g. Leafield, Oxon and Tamworth, which had v. little tuning when the
rest were recast in the 30's. The job book records show absolutely no contemporary
interest in them!

I seem to remember Paul Taylor telling me that the real eye-opener was when his
father (?grandfather) found evidence of the Hemony tuning in the crown, in bells
they inspected in th Netherlands. In addition
to this the Taylor profile (adopted as standard probably when Denison Taylor
took over, and not subsequently much changed) is strikingly similar to the
Hemony profile shown in Lehr's 'Art of the Carillon in the Low Countries'. It
was of course the Hemonys who first laid down and achieved the true tuning of
harmonics as long ago as the mid-1600's. I have got quite a few recordings, some of
which have not been in the hands of the restorers, and although the timbre and
tone is a bit variable the accuracy of the tuning is pretty well spot-on. On the other
hand Simpson gives quite erroneous details of how to tune the partials. However
his name provided a useful hook for Gillets in particular, who could I suppose
hardly refer to Taylor true-harmonic. His name was also useful when sundry folk
wanted to talk about the 'Simpson howl', which was I suspect a useful code to use
when refering to G&J, since I don't think anyone in e.g. 1926 ever wanted to use
that term in reference to Taylors.

Newport Pagnell and South Croydon are pretty accurate in respect of the 5 partials,
but certainly I agree about the timbre.

Stephen Ivin

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