[Bell Historians] Early handbell ringing

Michael Platt michael.platt at jzXPY_HqY6tN5Fe2JTEA8bQiidmiJdPB7A9hXYEq5dRrRIJqbdcUiT3HR8J5rWEakObMuL3qAQ-zr6lQor6WdTQ5fhSzlA.yahoo.invalid
Sun Mar 15 16:47:55 GMT 2009

The record of what was for long understood to be the first ever handbell peal is in the Notebook of John Alfred Parnell (the self-styled "Gothick Traveller"), which is kept in the Sheffield Cathedral Ringers Library.

There are two entries on one page of the Notebook detailing this first peal and a further one a month or so later of Oxford TB Royal.  The complete entries are as follows: 

On Wednesday Evening Octbr 30th 1811 was Rung
on a Musical Peal of 8 Hand Bells at the House
of Mr William Booths in Bailey Lane Sheffield -
by the Saint Peters Independent Youths of this -
Cutlery & Hardware Town Sheffield a true &
complete Peal of Oxford Treble Bob Major -
Composed of 5,088 Musical Changes the time -
2 Hours & 34 Minutes by the 4 following Artists -
Treble & 2 Mr William Hudson
3 & 4 Mr William Booth
5 & 6 Mr Henry Grayson
7 & Tenor Mr George Hudson
The Conductor of this Peal Mr George Hudson

On Tuesday Decbr 3rd 1811 was Rung on the Hand -
Bells at Mr William Booths House in Bailey Lane
Sheffield Yorkshire a most Noble Peal in that -
Intricate and Scientific Method Oxford Treble Bob
Royal (or Treble Bob 10 in) by the much Celebrated
Independent Youths of Sheffield in Yorkshire Con-
taining a Peal of 5,000 Changes exact which -
was boldly Struck and Nobly brought round in -
2 Hours & 57 Minutes by the following Artists viz -
Treble & 2nd Mr William Hudson
3rd & 4th Mr William Booth
5th & 6th Mr Henry Grayson
7th & 8th Mr George Hudson
9th & Tenor Mr William Rowin
The Conductor of the Peal Mr Henry Grayson
This is the Noblest Performance ever Completed on
the Hand Bells in the British Dominions -

Of direct relevance to the current discussion of double-handed ringing is the following record of the first handbell peal of Oxford TB Maximus, which implies that the Sheffield ringers had adopted double-handed ringing when the London ringers were still lapping the bells!:
On Monday Night Novbr 24th 1816 -
Was Rung on a Musical Peal of twelve Hand
Bells a Complete 5,280 Changes in the Intricate
Method of Old Oxford Treble Bob Maximus
which was boldly performed by only Six of
the Saint Peters Independent Youths of
Sheffield and Nobly brought Round in -
3 Hours & 33 Minutes being the -
greatest Performance on the Hand bells
each Artist two that the Ringing World
can Record and totally out of the Weak
System the Londoners Introduced of -
Changing or Lapping the Hand-Bells -
These bold Heroes Rung in the following Order
viz Treble & Second Mr William Hudson
Third & Fourth Mr William Booth a Cutler
Fifth & Sixth Mr William Rowin -
Seventh & Eighth Mr George Hudson
Ninth & Tenth Mr John Lomas -
Eleventh & Tenor Mr William Hall
Conductor of the Peal Mr William Hudson

Other relevant quotes from Parnell's Notebook are: 

On Monday the 16th October 1809 was
Rung on a fine & Musical Peal of twelve Hand-Bells at
the Talbot Inn in Derby by the Sheffield Society of St
Peters Youths a Complete Course of Oxford Treble Bob
Maximus which was Performed by the following Artists viz -
Treble & 2nd Mr Samuel Gardner -
3rd & 4th Mr William Booth -
5th & 6th Mr William Rowin -
7th & 8th Mr Joseph Grayson
9th & 10th Mr Henry Grayson
11th & Tenor Mr Samuel Shirt -
This was the first Course on Treble Bob Maximus (12 in)
Containing 528 Changes ever Rung in the County of
Derby and before a large concourse of Brother Bob Ha[nds]

(E): [This from a visit to Shrewsbury in 1811] 
N.B. The Sheffield Youths gave good Specimens
on Hand Bell Intricate Oxford Treble Bob
12 in and Steadman Cinque Change -
Ringing at Shrewsbury this Visit -

Finally, also from the Parnell Notebook, but reporting handbell ringing in Norwich is:

Hand Bell Ringing Norwich
On the 9th Day of February 1822
was Completely Rung upon a fine -
Musical Peal of 8 Hand bells Mr
Fabian Stedman Quarter Peal
of Tripples comprising 1,260 Changes
by 4 of St Peter Mancroft Company
at Norwich The Bobs Arranged &
Conducted by Mr Saml Thurston
Treble 2nd Mr William Tuck
3 and 4 Mr Friederick Wate[?]
5 and 6 Mr Samuel Thurs[ton]
7 and Tenor Mr William Ma[?]
Norwich City

The leader of the ringing in Sheffield in the early nineteenth century was William Booth, a table-knife cutter, whom Ernest Morris says was the grandfather of Charles Henry Hattersley, who led ringing in Sheffield in a much later age.  Bailey Lane, the road where William Booth lived and where the peals were rung, still exists.  The Sheffield ringers were considering organising a celebration in Sheffield in 2011 of the first handbell peal - but perhaps we are 30 odd years too late!

Regards to all,
Michael Platt.           
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