Bell collers

John Camp camp at
Sat May 30 08:26:32 BST 2009

>From the YACR list, with permission.

Malcolm Bland wrote:


During a hunt through transcripts of old Parish Registers for  the Parish
Church of St Michael the Archangel, Kirkby Malham, I came across the  
following curious note made at the end of one register.
"[xix] mensis junii 1609
 Memorand’ that whereas Richard Smith of  Skipton in Craven in the County 
of York Sadler hath in consideration of the some  of fyfteene shillings now 
paied to him made & deliu’d to the churchwardens  of the pish of Kirkeby in 
Malhamdale three new bell collers.  He the said  Richard Smith doth covenñte 
to and wth the now churchwardens  of the said  pish & there successors that 
he the said Richard shall for one yeare now  next followinge uphould & 
mainteyne the said three bell collers at his owne  charge and yearely afterward 
dureinge his lyfe sufficiently to amend repaire  & uphould upon notyce given 
to him by anie the churchwardens for the tyme  beinge for paymt  of xviijd 
yearely to him the first paymt to begin at  midsomr next and so afterward at 
midsomr yearely dureinge his  lyfe
Rychard Smyth
Witnesses hereof
In the year of our Lord 1673.”

Bearing in mind that this is a transcript of a  transcript and, therefore, 
liable to mistranscriptions, I would be very  interested to be told what 
"bell collers" are/were.  Of course punctuation  was absent from legal 
documents although the transcript does place a full stop  after "collers" and "1673".


A correspondent suggested muffles (but fifteen shillings seems very
expensive, as Malcolm pointed out).

Andrew Aspland:  "I've had a quick look through "The Development of British Bell Fittings" by
Trevor Jennings but unfortunately it is unindexed as far as synonyms are
concerned.  If "collers" could be "cotters" then it is probably a reference
to ironwork but if "Collers" is synonymous with "Yoke" then we have a

Mark Ockelton: "Evidently the things are made of leather, because they come from a
saddler.  The real difficulty is the maintenance.  What on earth could  have 
required such a contract?  Both the money and the trouble look too  much for 
baldricks, and the money is incidentally much more than in the OED and  other  
I do slightly wonder whether there is a misreading and that it is  'bull'.
Bulls are much more likely to need heavy leather collars than  bells are.  
But a 'u' in the writing that would have been used doesn't look  much like 
an 'e'."

The online OED gives:

II. Transferred and technical senses.

10.  An encompassing and restraining band or strap.  1507 LOUTH
(Lincolnsh.) Churchw.  Acc.  (MS.), Paid Codder makyng bell colars xd.
1563 STOW Mem.  in Three 15th C.  Chron.  (Camden) 125 Anno 1563, ye
xxx of July..was one whipt on a sckaffold..his neke, his hands, and
fett made faste to a stake a bove ye sayd skafold with kolars of iron.
1593 Vestry Bks.  (Surtees) 34 Item given for a bell coller..xijd.

Any thoughts?

John Camp


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