[Bell Historians] Lulls in bellfounding activity

Phil Watts pag.watts at btinternet.com
Tue Dec 29 06:40:05 GMT 2020

Some musings on the dip of the 1830s.

It is possible that there may be some connection to the considerable rural and to a degree political unrest of the period?   Particularly in the southern half of England, there was a significant dip in the rural economy and rural employment in the 1830s, in part as a consequence of a succession of poor harvests (particularly in the late 1820s).  Very low agricultural wages, insecurity of employment including seasonal contracts for agricultural workers (the 1830s equivalent of "zero hours contracts") and growing mechanisation of farming, contributed to very high levels of rural poverty, and led to the "Swing riots" in the 1830s.  These were driven in part by changes to Poor Laws and later resulted in further Poor Law amendments and the Tythe Commutation Act, which added to financial pressure within the rural economy as payments of 'produce' were replaced by payments in money.  

Rural land owners would likely have been cautious of supporting "good causes" as their wealth came under pressure, and among the lower echelons of society, agricultural wages were cut, particularly as tenant farmers came under pressure from their landlords to maintain levels of rent etc.  In many rural areas the influence of Church of England via its clergy, in regard to "social control", was frequently seen as supportive of land owners and the gentry (who were often held the living of the parish), against the agricultural labouring classes, which fostered resentment against the church (and in some areas encouraged the growth of "non-conformist" congregations).  

This was also the time when Tractarianism and the Oxford movement began to gain momentum, (also driven by some changes in the secular political stance towards the Anglican Church and its lands.  Hence it may perhaps be possible that the shift of emphasis in liturgy and focus led to a slowing in investment in bell installations in some parishes for a while, as local benefactors awaited the implications of these changes, particularly where there (financial) influence had traditionally led sway.  

These pressures, together with the double change in the monarchy during the 1830s (William IV - reigned 1830-1837), which, at that time, seems to have required general elections, also led to underlying political unrest which had a bearing on the wider economy, and again may have impacted on "benevolent investments"? 

Perhaps the more learned historians among the group may be able to provide a more reasoned analysis?


-----Original Message-----
From: Bell-historians <bell-historians-bounces at lists.ringingworld.co.uk> On Behalf Of Richard Smith
Sent: 29 December 2020 02:53
To: Bell Historians <bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk>
Subject: [Bell Historians] Lulls in bellfounding activity

I've been analysing the Dove database looking statistical trends in year in which surviving bells were cast.  I'm only including in the analysis bells where a precise date is known to avoid bias from estimated dates.

The number of surviving datable bells starts to climb rapidly at the start of Elizabeth's reign and within a decade it is clear this is not a statistical anomaly. 
Unsurprisingly levels have varied over the centuries since then, and there are some interesting trends which I'm still analysising.

One of the most striking features of the data is that there are five or six periods since Elizabethan times when founding has dropped off significantly.  Some are obvious, but not all of them, and that's the purpose of this email. 
The six periods in question are:

  (a) 1642-1646
  (b) 1688-1692
  (c) 1794-1802
  (d) 1832-1838
  (e) 1914-1918
  (f) 1940-1945

Four of these are wars: (a) is the first phase of the English Civil War; (c) is the French Revolutionary Wars; (e) is the First World War; and (f) is the Second World War. 
It is easy to see how these would have lead to decreased bellfounding activity.

However I'm at a complete loss to know what the other two are.  1688 is, of course, the year of the Glorious Revolution, but I struggle to see why that have a pronounced effect on bell founding.  I have even less idea what the
1832-38 dip could be.  Possibly they are not genuine declines in founding but instead represent periods where fewer bells were cast with dates or where an above average number have been lost.  The latter could happen if the dips coincided with a prolific yet poor founder who was preceded and followed by better founders, but there's no obvious candidate.  C & G Mears were a decade later!

Can anyone offer any insight?


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