English for Türmer

Frank King Frank.King at aY7bdM7xX4V1jRPAO4eYuPNNHyKwNEk2_bZ4C_E4eurJkAqVsdKs3F-lKdXKXxkzjhnwG8yRiKrbOWAcRg8rNw.yahoo.invalid
Sat Jun 6 11:56:44 BST 2009

Dear All,

I have been asked by a German academic whether
there is an English word corresponding to the
German term Türmer (from Türm for tower).

The term seems to refer to an individual who
looked after the bells and the clock but who
also served as a watchman or the town look-out
with special responsibility for spotting fires
and, in times of tension, looking out for
advancing enemies.

It seems that the Türmer in his Türm was at
the control centre of a town security system.
He would have assistants that he could call on
by shouting (or via the bells) and direct to
take a closer look at anything suspicious.

A few German towns employ a Türmer to this
day though solely for the benefit of tourists.
Nördlingen is an example where the Türmer
shouts to his (non-existent) assistants every

It is almost self-evident that English church
towers were used in this way but clearly the term
steeplekeeper hardly covers the job description.

There is an Italian word "temperatore" which
covers some of the job description too but is
just as inadequate as steeplekeeper.

Can anyone supply references to this kind of
practice in England?  Is there a term that
specifically links a look-out to a tower?

Frank King
The University Bellringer
Cambridge, U.K.


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