[Bell Historians] First use of roller bearings?

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at swbell.net
Sat Feb 26 14:51:53 GMT 2022

In view of the wide variety of fittings that the term apparently can encompass, perhaps the question should be re-phrased as "What would G&J have meant when they used that term (and made that claim) at Monaghan in 1896?"
I've just ordered a copy of Jennings' book on bell fittings, so I don't yet have a clear picture of developments in the UK.  However, I can say that in the USA, the first non-plain bearings used for large swinging bells (slow-swinging, in UK terminology) were either cylindrical rollers or a pair of wheels in a bearing box.  But I have not studied this carefully enough to know when the various types were first used by the various American bellfoundries.  I am fairly certain that complete bearing housings analogous to those in the SKF video were not used until early in the 20th century, but thereafter were used almost universally.  Clearly I shall have to add study of this topic to my "to do" list!


    On Saturday, February 26, 2022, 07:52:04 AM CST, oliver Lee <oliverbellringer at outlook.com> wrote:  
The term certainly is a very confusing one, I can remember one old boy at old Harlow (who didn’t have a clue about bell fittings ) telling me the bells where to be rehung on rollers when he actually meant ball bearings, I’m not sure if they are the  same thing or nor but I have read some reports which use either definitions so it’s fairly possible I suppose. With regards to firms who used them I think warners started using them in the mid 1900s around the time they started using Simpson tuning, the earliest installation I can think of is Chelmsford cathedral where they were fitted to the tenor (I think) and survived in use until 1931 when the bells where rehung by Gillet and Johnston.

I hope this might help your discussion 

Oliver lee. 

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From: Ken Webb
Sent: 26 February 2022 11:22
To: bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] First use of roller bearings?

I think the query from Carl is difficult to answer as 'roller' bearings covers a wide range of designs. Does the newspaper article mean use of parallel needle rollers & not spherical self aligning rollers?

The comment by Matthew has made me aware of spherical roller bearings (which I think are usually 2 rows, but can be 1 row,  of barrel shape 'rollers' ie don't ever seem to be spherical?  & can always be self aligning?) .

Until today  my understanding was that 'roller bearings' were a single or double row of needle bearings (comprising parallel  'pins') which I assume can never be self aligning. I think all cases these modern bearings are always held in a cage to keep each 'roller' separate.

I think the only rollers illustrated by Trevor Jennings are needle roller on page 65 which are described as roller balls but Fig 3 appears to indicate long / wide roller pins ie & not spherical (barrel shaped) balls?

I think a single row of needles on page 65 would not allow self-aligning within the bearing?

I think double row 'round' ball bearings only are illustrated on pages 66 & 67 & not needle roller bearings or the spherical (barrel) roller bearings stated by Matthew?

Fig 3 on page 66 attempts to prevent end float problems by having balls at the end of the shaft.

SKF Spherical bearings:


(Searching for SKF bearings etc will provide 1000's of pages re bearings designs & many variations including combinations within the same housing.)


On 26/02/2022 09:10, MATTHEW HIGBY via Bell-historians wrote:

I’ve used self aligning (spherical roller) bearings in some cases too… you can use smaller housings that way, and the ratings are significantly higher than using ball races. 
Sent from my iPhone


On 26 Feb 2022, at 08:56, Nigel Taylor<nigelsdtaylor at outlook.com> wrote:

I am not sure the difference is clear. I have often seen references to bells 'hung on roller bearings' when clearly they are not. Bob Parker used rollers, and Whitechapel used them sometimes for large, swinging bells. 
Nigel Taylor 
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From: Bell-historians<bell-historians-bounces at lists.ringingworld.co.uk> on behalf of Andrew Higson via Bell-historians<bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk>
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2022 7:23:25 PM
To: Bell Historians Mailing List <bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk>
Cc: Andrew Higson <andrewhigson at ymail.com>
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] First use of roller bearings? 
Just wondering if the distinction between roller bearing and ball bearings is clear. Roller bearings seems to be common parlance for anything that isn’t a plain bearing. 

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On Friday, February 25, 2022, 19:10,georgebellringer at gmail.com wrote:

Jennings in his book The development of British bell fittings deals with various forms of rollers in bearings, eg p.65.   So by the 1890’s they were well known.




From: Bell-historians [mailto:bell-historians-bounces at lists.ringingworld.co.uk]On Behalf Of Carl S Zimmerman
Sent: 25 February 2022 17:48
To: Bell Historians Mailing List
Subject: [Bell Historians] First use of roller bearings?


An 1896 newspaper article about the installation of a G&J chime with swinging tenor bell (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/96404646) makes the claim that this is "the first time the roller principle has been introduced into bell hanging."  Is that claim correct?  If not, when and where were roller bearings first used?


Carl Scott Zimmerman, Campanologist 
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA -
 - 19th c. home of at least 37 bell founders or resellers 
Tel. +1(314)821-8437 
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 * Avocation: tower bells
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