[Bell Historians] heaviest three

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at s...
Tue Jul 8 14:43:10 BST 2003

At 10:05 +0100 2003/07/08, David Bryant (david at b...) wrote:
> > Clearly shows two bells on cast iron arched headstocks - the larger bell
>> being fitted with a stay and slider. It states that the picture shows the
>> of three bells supplied to Newport, Rhode Island. It does not say if all
>> bells were hung in the same way - if they were, and still are - these must
>> taken as the heaviest three, slow swinging or not.
>So what is the difference between a ringing bell and a slow swinger. A
>ringing bell can have no stay and still be a ringing bell, but can a slow
>swinger have a stay and still be a slow swinger. Where is the dividing line?
>The conclusion I've come to is that it is entirely arbitrary!

Although I can't give a definitive answer, I suggest that the 
difference lies in whether the bell is hung in such a way as to 
enable full-circle ringing under complete control of the ringer. One 
critical component, for example, is a ground pulley; another is a 
full wheel; yet another has to do with the clappering. The stay and 
slider (or equivalent device) is, as David implies, not essential to 
control of the ringing; it is merely a convenient device to prevent 
over-rotation and to allow the bell to be rested mouth-up.

American bellfounders in the 19th c. discovered that over-rotation of 
slow swingers (caused by untrained bellringers who pulled too hard) 
could lead to a variety of more or less significant problems. (I've 
seen bellframes with rope grooves an inch deep at the point where a 
ground pulley would have been placed under a ringing bell.) To 
prevent this, some of them came up with a variety of solutions.

One bellfounder put a pair of pulleys rim-to-rim in a block on the 
frameside directly under the center of the wheel, and put the garter 
hole at top dead center of the wheel. Thus if the bell overturned, 
the rope simply went the opposite direction around the wheel, but the 
length in the ringer's hands remained unchanged.

Another used a ringing-style ground pulley, and placed the garter 
hole diametrically opposite the pulley location, thus achieving the 
same effect.

On really large bells, another bellfounder attached a stop block to 
the side of the wheel rim at top center, while on the frame below the 
bell was a matching block (usually carrying a short thick coil spring 
to absorb the force of impact).

With or without such safety devices, it seems clear to me that while 
some slow swingers *can* be pulled a full circle, there's no 
possibility of control over when the bell strikes. That becomes more 
obvious when one considers slow swingers which have half wheels 
(common here for a short period in the mid-19th c.) or even just 
levers attached to the headstock.

My guess is that on the three bells in question, Whitechapel merely 
used stays and sliders as the safety mechanism because that was what 
they were accustomed to making, while the clappering and balance of 
the bells was more suitable for the swing-chiming action expected by 
Americans. If these bells still exist, and we can find them, it 
would be interesting to find out whether they actually can be rung 
full circle with control. That test would certainly provide a 
definitive answer to David's question.

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