[Bell Historians] Gillet & Johnston / Mears & Stainbank - Coventry Bells

David Cawley dcawley at w...
Thu Apr 29 22:35:02 BST 2004

I have before me a copy of the letter (produced in the Consistory Court), from A. A. Hughes, 11th December 1925. Whilst it doesn't give all five principal tones in each bell, he gives the "tap note" (i.e. the so called "strike"), which of course is simply the Nominal divided by two. It should set Jim Phillips' mind at rest as his findings in the tower show a close measure of agreement with those recorded by Cyril Johnston in the Foundry in May 1926. For clarity I have multiplied the "tap note" written down by AAH to give the Nominal he would have measured:

AAH 1925 CFJ 1926

Treble 1380 1376
2nd 1246 1244
3rd 1120 1114
4th 1042 1044
5th 926 928
6th 836 842
7th 740 740
8th 696 695
9th 616 616
Tenor 557 558

The maximum difference between AAH and CFJ is 6 vibrations (# on 3 and b on 2); the treble is 4#; five others are only 1 or 2 # or b, and two (7 & 9) correspond exactly. Taking pitches in the tower is never easy, and remembering that the ten bells were then crammed together up in the octagon, the accuracy of AAH's measurements is striking.

As to tune, taking the tenor as datum, AAH found the 8th and 6th correct; the 7th, 5th and 4th practically correct; the third 0.04 of a note sharp, the second 0.05 flat; the treble 0.08 flat and the ninth 0.15 of a note flat. 

Turning to tone, he does not record in the letter the partials, but given the closeness of his reading of the Nominals to Cyril Johnston's, I have no reason to doubt the figures recorded by CFJ in the tuning book. Bert Hughes says generally, "The chief harmonic tones, viz. the 'hum notes' are not, however, so correct. They vary from a seventh, to an augmented seventh, interval below the tap note." 

This suggests that AAH may not have checked all the partials; the relationship of the Hums (which clearly he did measure) to the Fundamentals is critical. Comparison of AAH's "taps" ("strikes" = Nominals divided by 2) with CFJ's measured Fundamentals shows a striking difference. Hughes was comparing Hums with "tap notes" (or "strikes") whereas Johnston was comparing the Hums with the Fundamentals and the latter with the Nominals to illustrate his point. Whilst there would be little in it if one were considering only the back four bells, thereafter the Fundamentals get flatter in respect of the Nominals (and consequently the 'tap notes') as one goes up the scale, and thus the Hums are seen as sharper than they may be. AAH said, "The bells were not designed to produce an octave hum note.....it would, however, have been better had all the hum notes been in tune together as augmented sevenths. This result could now be obtained without difficulty by means of a modern tuning machine, but it is quite a matter of opinion as to whether such an alteration should now be made".

If only AAH had left the last phrase out, subsequent questioning might just have swung in favour of the old bells. The dots (.....) in the last quotation are for the omitted words, "They were cast FOR RINGING, and the existing hum notes were intentional". It indicates that Bert Hughes knew exactly what the Coventry controversy was about. It was not about Cyril's business methods (he had been up and down to Coventry for five years trying to persuade them to have a new chime, and Taylor's had last restored the bells before that). Nor was it about tuning either; as Canon Coleridge, then president of the CCCBR said at the Hearing, "Don't ask me anything about music, I know nothing of augmented sevenths" [Counsel] "What you want is to get a bell with a good swing with it ?" [CC] "Exactly! And one that has got a wheel on it !"

But, as we await Coventry's 'virtual' old bells from Bill, Bert Hughes' moving words deserve repetition:

"Each bell is of bold and pleasing tone, and they really constitute a very fine peal of ten.....I do not remember ever having found an old ring of bells (especially ten) so nearly correct.....I have always heard glowing accounts of your bells, but notwithstanding this, I was not prepared to form quite so good an opinion of them as I have done now that I have had the opportunity of tring them.....I consider that they fully justify the good reputation they have so long enjoyed and it my firm opinion that there is no need for any re-casting".


----- Original Message ----- 
From: jim phillips 
To: bell historians 
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 11:00 AM
Subject: [Bell Historians] Gillet & Johnston archives.

DrL wrote:-

>Doubting Thomas (AJP):
> How do we know these figures are correct? Were they independently

>Come on Jim - what do you think? Seriously, we can only go on the info
>supplied with the source stated. Then you just takes your choice!

If the tuning figures for the old bells as given by Croydon were correct (RO
described them as 'bog standard') then why did honest men of the calibre of
A A Hughes and E Alexander Young so vigorously oppose the recasting of these
particular bells in a well publicised court case? The late F E Darby, a
former employee of Croydon had some interesting things to say and perhaps
his experiences at Croydon was recorded in Mike Moreton's interview with
Frank. Does anyone know why the Croydon Foundry ceased trading as a bell
foundry? Is Michael Howard, the last director, still alive? I know the
clock making and renovation side of G&J is still going strong as they have
renovated the clock at Seasalter and put back the iv on the dial instead of
the 1111 which will please DLC.

Yahoo! Groups Links

a.. To visit your group on the web, go to:

b.. To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
bellhistorians-unsubscribe at yahoogroups.com

c.. Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service. 

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

More information about the Bell-historians mailing list