[Bell Historians] Founders' Artefacts

David Bryant david at b...
Fri Sep 3 11:45:11 BST 2004

> I am never very comfortable with the phrase 'pre-industrial', but if you
> look at the probate inventories of 17th and 18th century founders, then
> their working tools are quite numerous. Bearing in mind that probate
> inventories could be quite sketchy, pictures of well-equiped workshops
> emerge. The February 1760 probate inventory for Abel Rudhall is very lengthy
> indeed.

Bellfounding is even now of course still to some extent an artisan craft rather than a mechanised manufacturing industry. However, developments of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries show the industrial revolution affecting the bell trade. The Rudhalls were one of the first major founders to use advances - they had the first tuning machine, they used water transport to send bells over quite a wide area, and they worked on a larger scale than most earlier founders, even the Purdues who although very prolific did not tend to send bells over a very wide radius from where they were currently working.

I think it is important to note that if earlier founders wanted to provide bells over a wide area then they would often work as itinerants, and obviously couldn't carry much around with them. It is only when large-scale foundries started to grow up which cast bells at one location and transported them over a wide area that premises and equipment could have multiplied.

For example, look at Purdue bells. The inscriptions on most of these seem to have been cut out of lead sheet or thick parchment, so no stamps were needed. The tools of trade of founders such as these cannot have been great.



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