Great bells (was: Carillon players)

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at
Thu Apr 10 02:37:39 BST 2008

At 10:35 -0700 08/04/06, Alan Ellis wrote:
>I was always under the impression that in a ringing peal of bells, a
>great bell was in excess of 2 tons, not 4!
>Any one care to comment?

Since no one else has done so, I will!

Actually, there isn't any "official" definition as far as I know.

Certainly the lists of "Notable Bells of the British Isles" in Dove's 
Guide (5th, 6th, 7th editions) used 40 cwt, or 2 tonnes, as the 
criterion.  Those lists include about 120 bells, some in rings and 
some not.

Chris Pickford's spreadsheet of "Great Bells of Great Britain" uses 
20 cwt (1 tonne) as the criterion.  It includes about 1700 bells, a 
few of which are outside Great Britain.

When I decided a few years ago to include a section on "great bells" 
on the GCNA Website, I was aware not only of Dove's Notable Bells but 
also the large number of very heavy carillons in North America, as 
well as the astonishing Russian history of really huge bells.  I 
picked 4 tons as a convenient criterion because it left me with 
manageable numbers of really noteworthy bells - 37 in the British 
Isles (less than 1/3 of Dove's list), 66 in North American carillons 
and 30 in North America outside of carillons.  Lists for Russia and 
mainland Europe are not yet complete; I have more information in hand 
to add, but other work is of higher priority at the moment.  The 
lists for other parts of the world are much smaller, though complete 
as far as I know.  However, I doubt that my knowledge is complete - 
additions and corrections are always welcome.



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