Bell numbering in the early 16th century

Brian Meldon CanewdonBells at
Wed Sep 19 16:30:18 BST 2012

I only have access to J.E.Foster's 1905 book `Churchwardens Accounts of St Mary the Great Cambridge from 1504 to 1635'. This is available on line, and obviously as I have not seen the original accounts it is difficult to say with certainty if this transcription is accurate but on the face of it, it appears to be good:

However having had a quick look at the above I can see your dilemma and it is one that I also encountered with the churchwardens accounts and other records at Canewdon.  I had the advantage of all the receipts and invoices as well as the accounts, the bells, original bell frame and even some bell wheels with dates on them to assist in ascertaining what bell was being mentioned, but even then it was often imposable to tell with any certainty.
In general I have found the way the accounts are recorded including the bell numbers when given often changed with the churchwardens, the incumbent or even the individual scribe at the time the accounts were made. So in my opinion there is no simple answer. 
The 1552 list of church goods tends to list the bells with the largest first, but not always, however as this list was all about gaining revenue for the crown by removing items from the churches naturally they would list the most valued items first.

So in practical terms when I wrote my book about the bells at Canewdon I just quoted the information I had. Simply saying that the accounts state that this item was repaired on this bell.

I must say that these accounts are realy good stuff and after an initial scan of the book it looks like you will be able to astablish a good history of the bells. It is a shame that the bellfounder's name is not mentioned in 1611 though!

Brian Meldon


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