Button Tops

David Bryant djb122 at y...
Sun Mar 3 11:30:11 GMT 2002

As there has been recent discussion about button-topped buoy bells, I
thought people might be interested in the origin of the button top.

For those who haven't seen one, it is shaped like a large mushroom, with
the staple bolt going through the centre. it was invented by Lord
Grimthorpe in abour 1856, and was first used on the bells cast by
Warner's for the Houses of Parliament. The replacement Big Ben, cast by
Whitechapel, also had one.

Grimthorpe advocated their use for ringing bells, with the button
secured to the stock by J bolts. He thought that it made it easy to turn
the bells, which it did, but the forces imparted in ringing would tend
to bend the J bolts, so the founders weren't keen! Taylor's cast them on
the present 2nd and tenor of 6 at Dickleburgh, Norfolk (1857), but a
newspaper article from the time states that they weren't happy about
this and only did it because the architect, who was advsed by
Grimthorpe, inisited.

Moore, Holmes and Mackenzie later used them and a modified design, the
flange top, which has extra bracing between flange and bell and is
secured by bolts through holes in it, was used by Naylor Vickers on ther
steel bells, and in the early C20 Taylors and Gilletts sometimes cast
them on the trebles of rings of 10 and 12 (and occasionally 8) to hang
them out further.

So far as I'm aware, the only C20 bells to be cast with button tops are
the Trinity House bells, which were all ordered with them.

Grimthorpe realised that his button top was not a success, and in 1858
invented the Doncaster Head, so called because it was first used on the
eight cast by Warners for Doncaster Parish Church in that year. It
basically comprises four short, thick canons. These found much more
favour with the founders and Whitechapel and Warners used them
extensively, although Taylors never did. They have the advantage that it
is possible to quarter-turn the bell without altering or replacing the


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