Rudhall and Wotton under Edge (was casting dates)

Chris Pickford c.j.pickford.t21 at
Fri May 5 09:09:56 BST 2006

In reply to Andrew's posting and David's comments, I can add a little on these bells. 

Over the years (mostly some 30 years ago!) I've done a full analysis of the Rudhall catalogues and documented all known Rudhall bells. As a result, I simply don't believe the "stock bell" idea as propounded by Fred Sharpe - although like any founders with sizeable turnover, the Rudhalls did on occasion re-use "rejects" for other jobs.  Chris Dalton and I have recently explored a Rudhall ring in Wiltshire (supplied at the peak of Gloucester foundry production in the early 1720s when output reached 130 bells in one year - equalling numbers cast by the larger firms in the late Victorian period) made up of "rejects" from several other jobs. 

On Wotton under Edge:

1. Clearly the bells were all dated 1756 and supplied as a complete ring. The accounts quoted by Andrew really only show that some payments for the work were made in 1757 (i.e. paid after - maybe some time after - the event). The fact that the main payments for the work (those to the founder and bellhanger) are not in the first extant book may also indicate that these accounts were settled in the previous year, for which no accounts survive.  Overall, it looks like a complete job of 1756 to me - but I can't help with regard to an exact date for the "opening".

2. Stock bells are unlikely in this case (even if the practice ever existed). By the mid 1750s the output of the foundry was down considerably - 24 bells in 1755, 33 in 1756 and 44 in 1756. Abel Rudhall's probate inventory of 1759/60 shows that only a very small number of bells were "in stock" at the time of his death.

3. The Rudhall catalogues show that Abraham Rudhall I cast a bell for "Wootton" (Gloucs) before 1705. The position of the entry in the list sometimes helps to indicate an approximate date - but not in this case. The 1756 octave appears in the 1788 and 1804 lists, and the 1831 list gives the tenor weight as 18 cwt. 

Regarding previous bells, it is most likely that Wootton had a ring (probably five or six) before the present bells were installed in 1756. If there were any earlier accounts (and clearly there aren't) it would be worth looking for records of purchases of bellropes, and this quite often points to the number of bells.  Another possible source is the Churchwardens' presentments (in the Diocesan records) as defects in the church fabric - including problems with the bells - were reported to the Bishop or his officials at the annual visitation. In the absence of full accounts, these records can be quite useful. I don't know the Gloucester material, but Visitation books and "detecta" sometime summarise the information from the individual parish presentments (I've recently been using the Worcester ones which yielded some interesting and useful discoveries).

It might be worth contacting John Eisel (the CCP Librarian) to see if Cyril Wratten's newspaper extracts include any contemporary references to the opening of the new bells in 1756 or 1757

Chris Pickford
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