[Bell Historians] 17th century numbers in bell tower

Tony tony_probert at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 27 10:55:37 GMT 2022

 Thank you for a detailed response.I had overlooked the significance of the middle initial.
I've attached a composite image of the name and numbers.
The second image has digital lines added for emphasis.The base image has various adjustments to improve definition and reduce the file size. A couple of numbers are incomplete.I think they are readable based on the regular size & shapes. Note, this location is awkward for writing (and photographing). I think the rows may be slanting because of limited access.Please let me know what you think.

    On Thursday, 27 January 2022, 00:09:23 GMT, Richard Smith <richard at ex-parrot.com> wrote:  
 Tony via Bell-historians wrote:

> Thank you for the feedback, here are some answers and more questions.
> The tower is in St. Helen's church, Little Eversden.
> The old wooden frame with only 4 bells was deemed un-safe around 1953.
> The actual date that 4 bells were installed is not currently known.
> There could have been 4 bells in the frame in 1641, but there is no evidence
> for 5.

Thanks.  I've looked up Little Eversden in Raven's Church 
Bells of Cambridgeshire, but he has little to add.  I agree, 
though, that there seems to be no evindence that there were 
more than four bells until recently.  That effectively rules 
out the possibility that these figures are the bells a fifth 
bell follows.

> I believe records show 3 bells in St. Helen's in the 1552, and then 4 bells
> in 1869.
> However, the 4th youngest bell is dated 1756, which suggests an earlier date
> for 4.
> Numbers, name and date are in an isolated spot, and survived relatively
> untouched.
> The name is in old fashioned script but I believe it is Willyam F. Battell. 
> (A Will in national archives for this name dated 1651 shows a wealthy, local
> man)

Just to be clear, are you saying that in addition to the 
figures, there is the name 'Willyam F. Battell' and the year 
1641, and all are seemingly in the same script?  If the name 
includes a middle initial, I would suggest this is very 
strong evidence that it was *not* written in 1641.  Almost 
no-one had a middle name back then.  I've taken a quick look 
at his 1651 will, and this uses no middle name, just 
'William Battell of Eversden parva in the County of 
Cambridge'.  He was old enough to have married children in 
1651, and one of his sons was also named William, so there's 
another possible candidate for the name.

> I have lots of photos, but although the inscription is well 'carved', they
> are not great.

I would be very keen to see one.

> Regarding the sequences, could they be the number of lead between calls for
> touches?

We sometimes describe touches in that way today, but I've 
not seen this notation used any earlier than the late 
eighteenth century.  Clavis Campanalogia, published in 1788, 
is the earliest use of it I can think of.  I'm quite willing 
to believe it was decades old in 1788, but not nearly a 
century and a half.

> This isn't good for a 4-bell method with lead lengths of 8.
> But it might work for a 4 bell principle with lead length of 6.
> I've found Erin and Badbury as examples of minimus principles but don't know
> their origin.

Badbury was invented early this century.  Erin is much 
older.  The name only dates to the early twentieth century, 
but the minimus method can be found in Benjamin Annable's 
notebook, which was probably written in the second quarter 
of the eighteenth century.  Annable does not suggest it was 
new then, and I think it highly likely that would have been 
known to Stedman and his contemporaries in the 1670s, based 
on other similar methods that were being rung.

> Were any minimus principle methods widely known in the 1640's? 

It's possible Erin Minimus was that old, but I would guess 
it's not quite that old.  In any case, they wouldn't have 
rung touches of Erin Minimus as the plain course is an 
extent, and there's absolutely no evidence that touches 
longer than an extent were rung before the late nineteenth 
century.  Several extents back-to-back, yes, but you don't 
need calls for that in Erin Minimus.

The only principles that I would be confident in saying were 
that old are Original Minimus (i.e. Plain Hunt) and two 
principles called 'All Over' and 'All Under'.  You won't 
find them in modern method collections, but on four bells 
they had the place notations 34.14.12 and 12.14.34 
respectively.  There is no evidence that touches were ever 
rung of All Over and All Under, and they have major problems 
with falseness.

Could they be touches of Original?  No, I don't think so. 
No only would this be unprecedently advanced for the time, 
and in a direction we don't believe seventeeth century 
ringing took, they would also be too long.  Add the numbers 
on a line together and you get 20, 14, 20 and 15.  If each 
figure is the number of leads between calls, then the total 
is the number of leads in the touch.  Anything above 12 is 
longer than the extent.

However, I don't have a better theory, and I don't buy the 
idea that this is seventeenth century record of a tune to be 
played on the bells.  Perhaps it is a tune, but if so I I'm 
sceptical it is anywhere near so old.  Push the date back a 
century or two then I can well believe it might be a tune. 
Perhaps the figures are not by the person who wrote the name 
and year.  Or perhaps 1641 is not a year, or it is a year 
but the year it was written.  Alternatively, maybe the 
figures are this old and have a different meaning entirely.

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