[Bell Historians] Was Stedman really from Yarkhill?

Richard Smith richard at m9_Bm4STwSHP8xkLDj4iyQLbB_MAZTt0C8v5dS424HZV6jqdSKJtnKP1EqQREROY4B4lHXgL18vpAff4.yahoo.invalid
Wed Jun 15 23:57:39 BST 2011

Dickon Love wrote:

> All very interesting material Richard. And I think I am 
> right in saying that Stedman has no connection with St 
> Bene't's Cambridge (despite this being the premise for 
> getting them ringable in the 1930s)?

The story that Stedman was parish clerk of St Bene't's, 
Cambridge seems unlikely to me.  Trollope has this to say on 
the matter:

   The authority for saying that Stedman
   was parish clerk of St Benedict's seems
   to depend at present entirely on a
   statement by C. H. Cooper in Memorials
   of Cambridge --- "Fabian Stedman, clerk
   of this parish about 1650, invented the
   art of change ringing.  Stedman's Principle,
   Stedman's Slow Course, Stedman's Triples,
   and Stedman's Caters are well known,
   as also is the Cambridge Surprise.  His
   Campanalogia or the Art of Ringing
   improved was published 12mo 1677."
   "About 1650" is very vague.  On any
   showing Stedman can hardly have been
   a parish clerk so early as 1650.

Charles Cooper's book 'Memorials of Cambridge' was published 
in the 1860s (the usually-quoted 1861 seems to be incorrect, 
or possibly only applies to volume 1); the text Trollope 
quotes is in footnote (b) on page 246 of volume 3.  It gives 
no indication of where this information has come from. 
Trollope seems to believe the statement is essentially true, 
but that the date is a incorrect.  In his main text, he says 
"In 1670 he was Parish Clerk of St Benets, but when he was 
appointed, and for how long he held the office are at 
present unknown."

The idea, however, that Stedman was from Cambridge is much 
earlier.  Thomas Melchior (a Mancroft ringer who called the 
first peal of Stedman Triples in 1731) said "he was Master 
of a College in the University and a learned Mathematician." 
I've yet to locate the precise source for this -- Trollope 
says the Norwich Gazette and although he doesn't give a 
date, it seems plausible it was part of the correspondence 
about the competition between the Mancroft and Coslany 
ringers to ring the first peal of Stedman Triples, so around 

What's surprising about this is that it was written by 
someone who was probably alive during Stedman's lifetime; 
this isn't a report from centuries later.  Clearly he wasn't 
master of a college: we know he wasn't even an Oxbridge 
alumnus.  But perhaps this was a confusion between Stedman 
and Duckworth?  Duckworth was seemingly Vice Principal of St 
Alban's Hall, Oxford and a fellow of Brasenose College.



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