[Bell Historians] Copy of a letter to the RW re Church bells.

David Bryant david at b...
Sun Apr 4 17:14:42 BST 2004

> The mandatory CofE church quinquennial states what is poor & needs
> now or soon - I suggest paid experts need to produce quinquennials
> bells, bell fittings & bellframes. I suggest bells & frames are generally
> ignored unless the ringers identify a problem - out of sight, out of mind?

I've certainly come across a number of cases where if the architect carrying
out the quinquennial has doubts about the bells he will have them inspected
by a bellhanger. I agree that the 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude can
often prevail. I would suggest that this is even quite likely to happen
where the bells are ringable and rung - the church will often assume that
the ringers keep an eye on them, and the ringers will assume they're OK
unless something falls off!

> The bell trade should be paid to examine & report on bells, fittings &
> every 5 or 10 years

Could be a waste of money if the locals know what they're doing. I feel no
need to have any of the bells in my care (3 rings) examined.

> The report should include details of the ringability of the
> bells - so, where the bells are ringable, would include a member of the
> belltrade personally ringing each of the bells with a typical band.

That assumes they are ringers - remember that not all in the bell trade are:
they are engineers, but not necessarily ringers.

> A copy of the report would go to the PCC, local ringers, the DAC, local
> association etc.

It's nothing to do with the local ringing association. I think that doing
this would create a lot of unnecessary paperwork.

> The report would include an analysis of the tuning & tone of the bells,
the quality of the casting, the rarity of bells by the
> founder, soundbow wear, clapper suspension safe etc. The report would
recommend work, including tuning, recasting &
> rehanging where the existing installation was less than good. This report
would be used to support proposed work & grant > applications. There would
need to be consistency of judgement & reporting.

No, definitely no! The bell trade are engineers, so well qualified to
comment on mecahnical consideration. They are not, in many cases,
historians. Many of the things which you say should be in the report would
normally only be reported on if a major restoration was under consideration.
Doing this for every ring of bells would prove a vastly expensive waste of

> Should we have an additional list of Church bells?
> There must be thousands of bells which should be on another list? Either
> recommended for RR (Recasting Recommended) or TR (Tuning Recommended)?

No. Quality of bells is subjective. Nobody can say categorically whether or
not a bell should be recast or tuned. It needs to be considered in the
context of any work which is proposed - i.e. if there are only three bells
and they're not very well in tune it probably isn't worth tuning them.
However, if they are to be augmented to six it may bel.

> Who
> will prepare that list to improve the overall quality of bells in UK
> Churches? I suspect 25,000 bells could be on this list? There is a duty on
> us to improve what we hand on to future generations - rather than to keep
> all bells as they were handed to us. I feel past generations produced a
> large volume of poor bells - perhaps 80% of bells cast before 1926 are not
> good instruments as originally supplied? Generally those bells should be
> improved or replaced. Other old founders proved good sounding bells could
> cast, so the poorer bells are not as good as they should or could be. I
> assume the same is true for Church organs & window glass?

It's too subjective. You can't legislate on grounds such as these.

> Bell Listing - old & proposed:
> The listing of old, good or rare bells should only result in more care
> the impact of any work on those bells - it should not stop all work.

That's the aim of the lists.

> The key to the revision to any listing is the size of the list & the
reason for the
> list. I cannot understand how the 3% increase in listed bells can be
> proven - can the evidence be provided?

I happen to know that it's been derived from analysing data from two
recently-surveyed dioceses.

> Most people who write about bells say little about their sound

That's because it's subjective. Any discussion of whether bells are good or
bad is a matter of personal taste, although there are bells which most
people would consider either good or bad.

> Bellfoundry casting for UK Churches:
> Re the Bellfounders being at risk. I doubt whether their foundries make
> profit - my understanding is that casting bells for UK churches is rare.

I don't really believe that the new listing criteria will make a huge
difference. The main factor is that the CofE is an organisation in decline,
and there is simply nowhere near as much money available for bell work
within the church as there used to be. Consider the recent major bell
projects (i.e. new rings, especially higher numbers). Almost all of these
projects have been driven by the ringers, who have in many cases raised
large parts of the funding.


More information about the Bell-historians mailing list