[Bell Historians] Whitechapel Archive

'Chris Pickford' c.j.pickford.t21@btinternet.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Sun Aug 4 10:04:28 BST 2019

Briefly (rather than comprehensively!):


The archive is at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) in Clerkenwell – a few minutes’ walk north of Clerkenwell church


For guidance for visitors, see  <https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/visitor-information/Pages/default.aspx> https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/visitor-information/Pages/default.aspx. You’ll need a History Card, but these can be issued when you visit.


The archive is accessible, but it is part-way through being catalogued – and things will have changed since my last visit a few months ago. It’s possible to order in advance if you have the reference numbers (my list is now out-of-date). It would be worth checking to see if the completed catalogue entries are now on the main searchable online catalogue database via https://search.lma.gov.uk/scripts/mwimain.dll?logon <https://search.lma.gov.uk/scripts/mwimain.dll?logon&application=UNION_VIEW&language=144&file=%5bWWW_LMA%5dhome.html> &application=UNION_VIEW&language=144&file=[WWW_LMA]home.html 


As to where to find things, two tips – 1) Generally you won’t be able to find much after 1940, 2) the daybooks (1837-1930s) are the main source. Also, from the daybooks you’ll get bell weights – and details of frames and fittings supplied – but no diameters, notes etc. There are records of these from the 1880s onwards but that material is not yet deposited at the LMA.


The daybooks are searchable by date (i.e. look through 1849 if that’s the date of the bell you’re looking for). There are two index volumes, but on the whole they’re not very helpful (by and large they just tell you what you already know). The most important thing to note is that (because these are summaries of the invoices) the names in the entries are those of the customers, sometimes third parties (e.g. agents, clockmakers, bellhangers, builders and donors) rather than parish names. That means that entries relating to particular bells aren’t always easily identifiable unless you’ve got additional information (e.g. names of clergy, donors or suppliers)


There are separate records of inscriptions on new bells (inscription books) and other categories of material for specific queries. The “peals book” from the 1740s to the 1830s is the only record of much use for bell queries before 1837.


I generally go with a list of places in date order, with notes on the names of people under whose names the bells might be listed. 


Hope that helps. I’ll be happy to advise on specifics offline (e.g. if you want something beyond what’s available from the daybook entries)


Chris Pickford



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