[Bell Historians] Re: Worcester Cathedral

'David Beacham' david1.beacham@virgin.net [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Tue May 31 15:44:04 BST 2016



From: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com [mailto:bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com] 
Sent: 30 May 2016 14:12
To: bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Bell Historians] Re: Worcester Cathedral


Please disregard my last,

I eventually found a plan of the bell frame and I can now see that the Flat 4th is tucked in at the South end of the Bourdon and therefore completely obscured in the photograph.


The group may be interested to know why one of the semitones is a flat 4th/sharp 5th.  The original bell was cast in 1869 along with the twelve others and its purpose was solely  do with the clock quarter chimes. It was desired, at the time, that the new clock (designed by Grimthorpe) should strike “Westminster” quarters and that the last note of the fourth quarter should be an octave above the hour bell. This was (then) considered to be the ideal.  The Hour (Bourdon) bell, cast in 1868, was 4 tons in B flat; the ring of twelve was in D flat and, given that the highest note  required for the chimes had to be a  D natural, which was not in the ring, it was necessary to provide it as an extra bell.  The quarter bells were therefore (in order down the scale) flat 4th, 5, 6, 10.  However, the outcome proved to be less than had been desired and it was decided that more powerful chimes were required and this was achieved by transferring them to bells 7, 8, 9 and 12.

Originally, The bell frame was built for the thirteen bells only and the flat 4th was hung in the pit now occupied by the 5th (bottom left corner in the photograph referred to).  The 5th was hung in the pit now occupied by the flat 6th (this bell is “down” in the photo) and the 6th was in the pit to its left.

In 1872 a chiming machine was presented to the cathedral and, at the same time, two extra bells, a flat 6th and a flat 8th/sharp 9th. The purpose of these bells was to provide two more notes for the chiming machine with therefore more scope for tunes.  Originally, I think, but am not sure, the machine came with two barrels, each pegged for seven different tunes.  In the years that followed, further barrels were acquired to a total of seven, which means forty-nine tunes!  These, however, are no longer heard and for this to be possible would require an extensive and expensive restoration job.

When the above two bells were acquired, they were hung in the additional frame shown in the top left-hand corner of the photo, and the flat 4th remained in its original pit. There was no thought, then, given, to rearranging the bells so as to bring the flat 6th into the circle to create a “middle eight”. This did not happen until the recasting and rehanging job in 1929. I have been ringing at the cathedral since 1954 and it was in 1960 that we rang the first peal on the Middle Eight (9th as tenor). Although we were aware that by incorporating both the flat 4th and the flat 8th we had, potentially, another internal octave, namely one in C sharp with the 11th (35 cwt) as tenor, nobody had ever tried it, mainly because the rope of the flat 4th falls directly behind that of the 8th (and still does)!  The following year, however, we did ring a peal of Bob Major on them, and in recent years there have been several peals rung on them; they are grand eight. The next move, once the possibility had been pointed out to us, was to ring the “Harmonic Minor” ten half-muffled on appropriate occasions, e.g. Remembrance Sunday, New Year’s Eve, etc. This ten incorporates both the flat 4th and the flat 6th.  Their haunting sound may be heard in a recording available on the cathedrals’ web page at http://www.worcesterbells.org.uk 

David Beacham

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