[Bell Historians] Starmer

David Cawley dcawley at w...
Sat Mar 6 19:35:40 GMT 2004

William Wooding Starmer was an important figure in the development of chime and carillon bells and equipment. He was certainly on friendly terms with J. W. Taylor Jnr, Pryce and E. D. T. He was referred to in my article on Great George of Bristol in the RW a few years ago, being the "independent referee" appointed by the University but suggested by JT & Co to approve the Great Bell. I have read a lot of his personal correspondence with the Taylors and hope in time to produce an article, probably for the BCS as it will be of little interest to ringers (I think!)

At the Coventry enquiry, (where he was descibed in the RW as 'Professor' of Campanology at Birmingham University, he is reported to have said that "He was, as a boy, a ringer, but had never rung a peal, he was glad to say. He could not agree that ringers were good judges of bell tones; they thought more of the 'go' of a bell" (Coventry Bells and how they were Lost p. 36). He was proved accurate by Canon Coleridge (then President CCCBR) who said "It is the practical side of ringing which I enjoy.......(a bell) that has got a wheel on it". "Professor Starmer" declared the Ringing World of 15th January 1926 was one of "two witnesses upon whom the petitioners relied to carry through their scheme, and, to be candid, we do not think the opposition were fully prepared to meet their evidence." If that is so, we have Starmer to thank then for the glorious ring which is so prized at Coventry. I rather think that Starmer might be horrified!

Still, he was not totally averse to ringing bells: he advised on the 1919 ring of eight at St Peter's, Tunbridge Wells, where he was organist; and on the twin chime (cast to ringing weights) at St Luke's, Tunbridge Wells. Both were cast by G&J, so it was not a question of "all Taylor". And in both cases, his name is there on the largest bell.

Price (The Carillon)p.56 says that Starmer was "an organist rather than a carilloneur, yet he took up the work where Simpson laid it down and marerially aided English bell-founders and their patrons by advising those specifications which would make their instruments not merely the equal of those of olden times, but a distinct improvement upon them. Studying past examples, he sought to improve their defects by lightening the touch, standardizing the dimensions of the keyboard, disposing the bells so that all could be heard equally well outside, and arranging the playing cabin so that the carilloneur could hear his effects properly". Praise indeed, but I wonder if JT&Co or G&J would have yielded the palm so readily; or for that matter Jef Denyn whose influence even to-day cannot be under-estimated.

W. W. Starmer was indeed for a while a part-time Lecturer in Campanology in the Department of Music at Birmingham University. I have never found any claim on his part to be a Professor, or Reader, and posters of his lectures (sometimes used as notepaper by him) describe him as "Lecturer in Campanology, Department of Music". 

He died in 1928 and is buried in Tunbridge Wells.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Chris Pickford 
To: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com 
Sent: Saturday, March 06, 2004 4:02 PM
Subject: [Bell Historians] Starmer

By coincidence (I've just opened David's posting) it's 8 am on Saturday morning, and I'm just setting off to have a thorough look at the Bournville carillon. Yes, there is just one of the original bells left (the original bass bell) as no.42 (17 cwt) - and some of the Taylor big bells (43, 45 and 47) of 1925

Starmer was certainly involved in the design and extension of the original instrument


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