Warner's big tuning machine (was Heythrop &c)

David Cawley dcawley at w...
Mon May 10 13:10:04 BST 2004

I doubt if the acquisition of the large tuning machine had anything to do with Big Ben. They did not tune the first one. Neither the second one (by G Mears) nor any of the quarter bells were tuned. If Denison didn't like what he saw or heard then a replacement bell was cast, as happened in the several incarnations of at least one of the quarter bells.

In February 1957, Michael Howard wrote to Paul Taylor inviting him to come and inspect three tuning machines or the remains thereof; an "old one" capable of taking up to 14-cwt; the "main large" one "half a ton to seventeen tons at its fullest extension.....except the castings to adapt it to more than 4.1/2-tons were unfortunately scrapped on one occasion by mistake" and "the base plate and bearings of an enormous machine used for Riverside and Chicago, capable of taking bells up to thirty tons. The top half was scrapped some time ago but the lower half, which is in the floor, is in excellent condition, having been hardly ever used. It was originally bought from Warners." Paul replied laconically, "I cannot say very much without seeing them first, although they don't sound very grand when half of them are missing!" 

So there was the remains of Warners' very large machine, but I don't think it had anything to do with Big Ben.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Richard Offen 
To: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com 
Sent: Sunday, May 09, 2004 7:56 PM
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Heythrop, Oxon, and T C Lewis

> Incidentally, it turns out that Warners were certainly cutting 
their bells
> everywhere, including in the shoulder to deal with the 
> frequency, by 1911 when they launched into "Simpson" tuning. That 
> stop a lot of their bells still having this frequency extremely 
sharp, it
> must be added (e.g. Somerton, Somerset, and Christ Church Erith).
> C D

According to Wally Spraggett, who was Gillett's (and subsequently 
Whitechapel's) tuner for many years, Warners had a large tuning 
machine built when they thought that they'd get the job of recasting 
Big Ben. The machine was subsequently purchased by Gilletts, who 
used it to tune, amongst others, the bass bells of the carillons at 
the Riverside Church , New York and Chicago University. 

Wally once told me that, because it was used so infrequently, the 
tuning machine became known as "Warner's White Elephant!" The face 
plate was evidently used more often for truing up large clock faces 
than tuning bells!

Incidentally, anyone who met Wally will know that he was not of huge 
stature. His father was even shorter and it is he who frequently 
appeared in Gillett's photos of their larger bells - presumably to 
make them look even bigger!


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