Rudhall Rings

Chris Pickford c.j.pickford.t21 at
Wed Nov 15 00:52:26 GMT 2006

Sam asks about lists. Peter quotes comments in Sharpe's Herefordshire and from Bliss & Sharpe Gloucestershire

Just to say that over many years I have worked on a complete listing of all Rudhall bells - past and present - and have assembled information from a wide range of sources. In particular, I have collated the details of surviving bells with the published Rudhall catalogues and undertaken documentary research to establish the dates (and other details) of bells that no longer survive. The result is a list of some 5500 bells (i.e. rather more than the figure often quoted). Needless to say, this list is on paper - and it's at home in England. I've been gradually transferring the details to a spreadsheet and (critically for the question raised by Mike Chester and by Sam) it's at this stage that I'm updating the entries to indicate which bells still survive and which have been lost.

So to the question "is there a list?", the answer is yes and no. There is a pretty comprehensive base list, but it doesn't (yet) reliable indicate which rings are still complete and intact. The end product should be a list that identifies surviving rings, shows output levels at different times in the history of the foundry (the original purpose of my listing), and "then and now" figures for both numbers of bells and rings produced. It is primarily a tool for historical analysis, but also contains data for individual bells and rings.

There is, of course, a slight problem in defining a complete Rudhall ring. I don't accept Fred Sharpe's "stock bell" theory - the foundry output was never large enough to have supported an off-the-shelf supply to prospective purchasers - but odd bells that didn't quite fit for one job were quite frequently "recycled". CD and I have recently made quite an interesting discovery about a ring in Wiltshire in which several "rejects" (traceable from their partially erased inscriptions) were used - you'll have to wait for his book to find out more! But "complete rings" - supplied as a set and at the same time - do quite often contain bells of more than one date. Alongside this, it was fairly common for bells to be replaced within a short time of installation - there are several documented instances as well as suspected ones - and also cases where a treble was added a year or so after the main set was renewed. Together, this means that it's quite hard to definitively state whether or not a mixed-date ring is "complete" or not.

Turning to the Sharpe / Bliss comments, it is certainly true that the number of surviving rings is much lower than the number originally produced - "becoming rare" is a fair summary. But theirs is a rather geographically limited perspective. Moreover (having researched this at the time of their recent restoration) the significance of Prestbury is much exaggerated. Looking at the bigger picture, there are up to ten complete rings of six by Abel Rudhall left - and two complete eights - and quite a lot more where only one bell has been recast (in some instances by a later Rudhall)

Reflecting on this, it illustrates how complex decisions on preservation and tuning can be - what really counts as significant? what really needs to be preserved? where does quality come into the equation? and (most of all) do those charged with decision-making or in advisory positions have the knowledge and information on which to make sound judgments? In case anyone reads this as me saying "I'm the only person with the knowledge - it should be me" can I just stress this is not at all what I am saying. But I do believe that we historians should avoid misleading comments like the Prestbury one cited and look instead to providing information suitable for decision-making.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Samuel Austin 
  To: bellhistorians at 
  Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 6:54 AM
  Subject: RE: [Bell Historians] Rudhall Rings

  Would it be worth compiling a list of complete Rudhall
  rings (unless someone has already!)?

  I really like rings cast by both Abraham Rudhalls.

  Rings like St Giles Lincoln and Wrexham are truly
  superb, plus the many other lesser known rings of 5
  and. 6

  Abel Rudhall wasn't bad but the tonal quality of the
  bells seems to get worse the later they were cast,
  some of John Rudhall's bells aren't particularly



  --- Peter Rivet <peter at> wrote:

  > When Fred Sharpe wrote up Herefordshire bells he
  > commented that complete
  > rings of bells by the Rudhalls were becoming rare,
  > and Mary Bliss in her
  > Gloucestershire book notes that the back six at
  > Prestbury (Abel Rudhall
  > 1748) are the only complete ring by him remaining in
  > the Diocese.
  > However they are by no means extinct. Near
  > Lancaster we have complete
  > Rudhall rings at Cockerham (6) which are all Abel
  > Rudhall 1748 and Melling
  > (6) which are Abel Rudhall 1753-4. We also have the
  > back six of the eight
  > at Hornby, which were cast at the Gloucester foundry
  > during the period when
  > it was under Francis Tyler's management in 1761.
  > And at Boston (Mass) the eight at Old North Church
  > are as I understand it
  > still a complete Abel Rudhall eight of 1744.
  > Peter Rivet
  > -----Original Message-----
  > From: bellhistorians at
  > [mailto:bellhistorians at]On Behalf Of
  > Mike Chester
  > Sent: 14 November 2006 09:45
  > To: bellhistorians at
  > Subject: [Bell Historians] Rudhall Rings
  > The Hawarden website says that they are the only
  > complete Rudhall
  > ring. I find this surprising for some reason. Is
  > this claim true,
  > based on being a ring by one Rudhall only?
  > Mike

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