Royal, or other names

George Dawson george at
Mon Aug 21 15:15:00 BST 2006

All I was trying to say was, as I'm not a member of the Ringing Theory
chat-line (or whatever you call these things), could someone please let me
know if a definitive answer came out of that chat-line. Nothing more or
nothing less. 

-----Original Message-----
From: bellhistorians at [mailto:bellhistorians at]
On Behalf Of edward martin
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 3:01 PM
To: bellhistorians at
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Re: Royal, or other names

What a strange reaction from George Dawson and Richard Offen who in
the past have almost invariably demonstrated an active & veritably
responsible interest in the history of bell ringing.

The 'original' question (Richard please note) was not from George, he
merely repeated part of the original question, which was from Roderick
Bickerton who wrote:

" I have often wondered about these names on all numbers why doubles
when 5 is an odd number? Were they all settled on by a convention of
the ancients? Why are changes on 10 bells called Royal?"

Richard Smith accurately explained part of the question but (speaking
of the titles Minor & Major), admitted that he was "unsure exactly
where these came from and why, for example, 'minor' refers to six bell
ringing rather than (say) four bell ringing. And 'royal' is a
complete mystery to me".

Although I am a comparatively recent subscriber to this list, I tried
to take an historian's approach by looking at such evidence that
exists in known historic bell ringing literature & trying to see from
this, how and perhaps when the terminology was in use or had actually
developed. Richard Smith had raised a good point and Matthew's
reflections on a possible musical connection was reminiscent of the
old medieval musical terms of "treble" & "tenor" being adapted by our

Then came this response from Richard Offen

"It's doubles because a maximum of two pairs of bells can be swapped in
any one change; triples has a maximum of three pairs; Caters
(derivation from French for four), four pairs; etc. Quite when this
convention came to be I am unsure".

which didn't offer anything that hadn't already been more accurately
explained by RAS
I pointed out that even in Stedman's day 'doubles referred to the
number of pairs of bells involved in switching places and had nothing
to do with how many bells were involved in total (eg in Stedman's day
there were several 6 bell methods carrying the title DOUBLES!! The
reason being that even though six bells were involved, two pairs of
bells and NEVER three pairs produced every actual change. This is an
Historical FACT and not a matter of method theory construction yet it
prompted Richard's odd response:

"Shouldn't we transfer this topic to the ringing theory list (of which
I'm not a member!)?"

Finally, Matthew who admitted to not being able to read music but
could play the piano by ear, reflected (giving absolutely no
historical support) that perhaps "minor was something to do with the
musical relationship between the treble and tenor of a ring of six.
Certainly major would then make sense, eing rung on a major scale of
eight. Maybe all even bell names are related to musical terms."

I am amazed that such a simple question as raised by Roderick should
have had such a dismal response; Absolutely amazed.

For those subscribers to this group who might be interested in bell
ringing history and can access the following books, may I suggest that
you might take a look for yourselves? Please study each book in turn
before offering any speculation of your own making. I have noted pages
of particular interest to me in my search for clues, but do feel free
to ignore these and make your own.

1: Shipway's Campanalogia (1816) paying particular attention to Book 1 page
2: page 40 of History of Change Ringing Vol 2
3: Stedman's Campanalogia (1677) pp 112, 173, 175
4: Campanalogia Improved (1702 etc) pp 169, 172, 175
5: The Clavis (1788) pp26,213,245

My own Speculative conclusions:
The comparison of Minor/ Major as musical terms is purely
coincidental, but I think that the progression in terms of size of
numbers involved from minor to major to royal to maximus is very
logical. (Within the genus of the English language, one could have a
progression of say meals or feasts: minor feast, or a major feast or
a right royal feast or a totally maximus feast). Shipway's tome is
noted in that he classified all known systems as well as all stages,
so that whilst the movement to standardize the names of the various
stages was already in progress (according to my reading of The
Clavis), Shipway undoubtedly nailed this down in his very influential
book in 1816.
The clues that I followed was to trace the evolution of Plain Bob on
all numbers particularly noting titles of stages that had already been
well established from the earliest times
As the higher numbers became available Plain Bob remained popular on
all numbers from 6 through to 12. Obviously Stedman's "Bob Major" had
been the 8-bell stage since its first introduction in 1677. and
eventually it was seen to be basically the same method on all numbers,
however, initially Plain Bob on six had already been long established
with its own title of "Grandsire Bob" (from circa 1657). Nevertheless,
by 1788, when Plain Bob was finally being rung regularly on all
numbers of bells, rather than continue with " Grandsire Bob on 6" or
"Plain ten In" or "Plain 12 In" ringers of the mid 1700s preference
prevailed & suggested that as the number increased Plain Bob on 12
would be Plain Bob at its Maximus stage; we already had Bob Major and
instead of "Bob Major Royal" just "Royal" would do well to classify
ten. Therefore, to be in keeping with this progression in size of
numbers, we are told that in the 1788 book that on 6 the stage is to
be known as "MINOR"


On 8/20/06, Richard Offen <richard at s4h. <> biz>
> I do not subscribe (or whatever it is) to
> > 'ringing theory'.
> >
> > GAD
> Nor do I would make my brain hurt :-)
> R
> Yahoo! Groups Links


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Bell-historians mailing list