[c-r] Cast Iron / Wrought Iron clappers

David Bryant djb122 at y...
Mon May 12 16:32:08 BST 2003

I'm copying this message to the bell historians list, as this is likely to
be a subject of interest.

Carl wrote:

> In a ring, however, the aim is to balance the sound as much as
> possible in support of the ever-varying but fixed-volume melody from
> a much smaller number of bells. The clapper travel is full-circle,
> just like that of the bells, so the impact at each stroke is vastly
> greater than in a carillon. (Tangential questions: For a given size
> bell, and assuming that the same clapper could work in all
> circumstances, which of the following would produce the greatest
> impact: swing-chiming (tucked up), swing-chiming on straight
> headstock (German style), full-circle? Also, how much does the
> impact vary as the rotational speed of a full-circle bell is varied
> (e.g., in dodging)?)

An interesting related point is why Taylor's occsionally hung some really
big full circle bells on straight headstocks - e.g. Rugby school chapel
bell, 65 cwt (1914). This has since been rehung for electric slow swinging,
but the original headstock (with stay socket) and wheel are in Taylor's
museum. Perhaps an engineer can tell us exactly what effect on 'go' and
clappering such an arrangement would have with such a large bell.

> As a bell and clapper flatten each other through repeated impact,
> that flattening tends to be self-limiting to some degree, as the
> force of impact is spread over a larger area. But I doubt that it
> ever stops progressing entirely; I've seen some incredibly battered
> clappers in old urban Catholic churches which once had a very heavy
> schedule of masses. And in the late 19th c., one of the principal
> points of competition amongst the American bellfounders was their
> proprietary (i.e., patented) methods of bell-hanging, so that the
> bell could easily be rotated to present a fresh face to the clapper.
> (English bell hangers have of course been familiar with
> quarter-turning for centuries; but the canon-and-straps suspension is
> not conducive to doing that very frequently.)

In the 1850s Lord Grimthorpe invented the button top bell, which could be so
turned - they were usually suspended by J bolts. The Westminster clock bells
are to this design. Two ringing bells (Taylor 1857) were cast for
Dickleburgh in Norfolk to this design, and a contemporary newspaper report
states that the architect, who had been advised by Grimthorpe, insisted that
the founders used this emthod of hanging, although they weren't keen. The
bells survive, but the button tops have since been removed.

Moore, Holmes and Mackenzie also used a smaller button top slightly later,
with their early examples of metal headstocks.


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