[Bell Historians] Taylors and timber headstocks

David Bryant davidbryant at h...
Tue Jan 25 09:22:56 GMT 2005

As Ben says, Taylor's introduced cast iron headstocks in 1892 at Egmanton 
and they became a standard fitment almost immediately. The cast iron lowside 
frame was also first used in this year, at Dumbleton, Glos (although 
interestingly with timber stocks). The H frame had been in use for several 
years by then, initially with timber grillages and later with RSJs. I'm not 
sure exactly when timber was ditched in favour of steel for the frame 
foundations, but it was at some point in the early 1890s.

Taylor's had occasionally used cast iron in frames as far back as the 1850s; 
the 1854/5 frame at Kingweston, Som, has a mixture of H and high-sided A 
castings, on timber grillages. The 1857 frame at Baldersby, N. Yorks, has 
some high-sided castings. They can't really be called H frames as they have 
two upright sides and diagonal braces crossing in the middle. The top tier 
of this frame has some lowside castings, but these so not have substantial 
ribs like the lowside castings introduced in 1892. I'm not sure what date 
the Baldersby castings are. They might be of 1857, but equally they might be 
of 1890 when several of the bells were rehung and the frame was clearly 
modified quite a bit. Has anyone looked in Taylor's records to see which is 
the case?

Other contractors used timber stocks much later. I believe Whites were the 
last to use them as standard fitments. If I remember rightly, Rendcomb, Glos 
(1977) was the last time they used them before switching to using metal 
stocks as standard.

I am talking about ringing bells here, just to make that clear. Use of 
timber (more recently usually iroko) for chiming bell headstocks and 
deadstocks has continued without a break to the present.

More recently, there have been instances of heritage restorations where 
timber stocks have been fitted to ringing bells. St Paul's Cathedral springs 
to mind, where Whites fitted new timber stocks to the treble and 5th during 
the restoration a few years ago.

Turning to Alan's initial question, I would be very cautious about dating 
the tenor stock at Clapham to 1930 without documentary evidence (i.e. the 
Taylor records). It is entirely possible that the canons had been removed 
from the old bell and it had been rehung on a new stock before 1930, and 
that this stock was reused.

Arncliffe, by the way, were done in 1922 - new gudgeons and bearings on the 
two trebles, new cast iron stock on the tenor. Unusually for Taylor's, they 
fitted the cast iron stock (and presumably removed the canons) in the tower. 
Presumably this was because of the hilly terrain and the difficulty of 
transporting a bell of about 15 cwt over it in 1922. I've not rung at 
Clapham, but I'm sure they will be better than Arncliffe because they have a 
modern tenor and because they will be in tune (I assume to, anyway). 
Arncliffe are not in tune - about all you can say is that the notes get 
flatter as the bells get bigger. I might be wrong, but I think it was about 
a tone between the front two and a semitone between the back two. I wouldn't 
swear to this without going back there, though.


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