[Bell Historians] Ancient bells - spreadsheet

c.j.pickford at talk21.com c.j.pickford at talk21.com
Wed Dec 15 11:25:35 GMT 2021

Thanks to Phil Watts and Bill Hibbert for their additions, and to Richard
Offen for some extra information. I'll add them, of course, but I'll delay a
while just in case anyone else wants to contribute.


Perhaps worth saying that the spreadsheet was a fairly "quick and dirty"
exercise to collect in one place a lot of stuff that was previously only to
be found in many places. It can now be improved and developed further. I
particularly wanted to preserve George Elphick's dating suggestions, keeping
them distinct from dates suggested by other people, which is why
(confusingly, I admit) there are multiple date columns. I've also used a
system that allows dates to be sorted in a number of ways, standardising on
quarters by century (C13-3 etc) and having approx dates (c.1260 etc) in a
separate column. That may have been obvious, but perhaps worth explaining
just in case it wasn't.


The other thing to say is that the primary purpose of the exercise was to
identify and place in a dating sequence all bells thought to be pre-1300 -
but it's useful to have later examples (especially blank / uninscribed ones)
too. But there is a definite pecking order - a bit like judging a 12-bell
eliminator where the order below the qualifying places is less important!
I'd expect there to be quite a few more post-1300 bells that still need to
be added. 


If anyone wants to contribute further examples or fill gaps in the available
information, they key things to record are:

*	Accurate measurements (in Metric or Imperial - though the
spreadsheet formulae to calculate relative height etc use Imperial) for

*	Mouth diameter
*	Shoulder circumference (measured under the shoulder curve but as
close to the top of the main bell)
*	Tangent (literally straight line from the lip to where the tape
touches the shoulder)

*	Soundbow type - VERY important (see the Elphick sketches on the
Intro worksheet)
*	Other details less important although useful (canon type, moulding
wires etc


George Elphick saw nearly all the very early bells himself and made
sectional drawing for many of them too. He was therefore in an excellent
position to make comparisons. Thus his typography was based on a close study
(admittedly over several decades) coupled with a practical man's
understanding of manufacturing techniques. A while back, Richard Johnston
rightly queried on this list whether a typological dating sequence could
really hold good, given the scope for regional variation, time-lag, 'rogue
exceptions' etc. I accept that totally (as with architecture, technology and
a great deal more), but I also feel that the main narrative suggested by
Elphick holds good for what one might describe as "fully typical" early
bells of different dates. I also believe that because of his method of study
his ideas and conclusions are unlikely to be improved upon without a huge
amount of revisiting and/or through the application of some method of
scientific analysis as yet unknown. Richard's caveat would still apply, all
the same.


Chris Pickford

Kinver (UK)

e-mail: pickford5040 at gmail.com <mailto:pickford5040 at gmail.com>  


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