G&J weights (was Bell diameters)

Chris Pickford c.j.pickford.t21 at 0inABq_rb2w7Of49PBjzd4jdNvIZOZZjCch_xijAjS1dm4Sm5G59SBghv1XAmFU9w5UjQsA35iMX17EI4VqCEgA-Iilt.yahoo.invalid
Wed Oct 1 14:34:16 BST 2008

Nick queries "relying on G&J notice boards in towers" when (as he observes) "these often conflict with the tuning books"

I'd urge caution here - because for the most part tower notices ARE reliable (as I'll explain). The diffculty that Nick refers to is a fairly limited problem, and one that isn't immediately apparent to people who obtain data from Alan Buswell's mostly excellent database because calculated figures (explained below) are not identified separately from those where full information is available from the records. I'd like to expand on this a little, as I've used the original records, gratefully received data from Alan, and collected data from tower notices.

I say "mostly excellent", because I have only one real quibble with it and that - as Alan well knows because we've exchanged many e-mails on the subject - is in respect of the treatment of those entries (mostly in the period 1907 to 1920) for which the tuning book entries are incomplete.  

The basics are that tower notices and tuning book data generally match after around 1920. There are, of course, occasional irreconcilable difficulties (e.g. Ropley tenor) but these are rare in the later period and may simply be the result of clerical error. There is an added complication that the "cast weights" were published in error in the G&J catalogues for some of the tenors of this period - perhaps reinforcing a perception that tower notices could be wrong.

The problem is in the earlier period, 1907 to 1920, where the tuning book details are incomplete. The books generally give a cast weight, and there are figures for tunings and borings. - with another column (often left blank) for tuned or finished weight. Alan has used an x minus y minus z formula to calculate the tuned weight in such cases - sensible enough on the face of it, I agree - but it is these calculated weights that very often differ from those found on the belfry notices.

I'm uncomfortable about using these calculated weights for two reasons. First, because the belfry notice figures for this period generally do tally (and the calculations don't!!) where there are fully completed tuning book entries. Second, because the later belfry notices seem to be "99.5%" okay too. It needs to be borne in mind that we only have the far copy tuning books - few of the other foundry records survive - and it's possible that from 1907 to 1920 the finished or tuned weights were generally recorded elsewhere, i.e. in another record series that no longer exists (e.g. in the invoice books). The clockmaking firm has some of the pre-1920 order books, and where weights have been entered in these (infrequently, alas) they too tally with the tower notices.

So my view, is that tower notices are probably the best source for G&J weights where the tuning book details are left unfinished. I'd personally prefer to see the tower notice details "reinstated" on Dove for rings like Launton, Wickwar and Carisbrooke (examples from memory so please excuse me if these are in fact showing tower notice values) instead of the "calculated" values" that are shown now, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to make a fuss.

The answer to resolving discrepancies must lie in checking all available sources - tuning books, tower notices, the catalogues (although these need to be used with caution) and (where they exist) contemporary documents like invoices preserved with the parish records. Substituting the "calculated values" is not, I feel, the answer at all. 

No disrespect intended to Alan on this. Indeed, it is a good opportunity to publicly acknowledge the excellent work that he has done over the years in securing the safe custody of the records (now in Croydon archives), compiling his admirable database and in patiently answering a great number of enquiries. Thanks, Alan, on behalf of many grateful "customers"!

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