[Bell Historians] 17th century numbers in bell tower

c.j.pickford at talk21.com c.j.pickford at talk21.com
Fri Jan 28 09:21:07 GMT 2022

Interesting stuff here, especially from Richard Smith. A few more musings

It's natural - since these figures are in the tower - to assume that they must be to do with the bells. However, I think that Richard is right to question that.

In what's been said so far, not enough thought has been given to HOW this notation would have been performed on a set of bells:
*  Full-circle is possible - similar Italian style (with bells held on the balance between blows) - but unlikely
*  Swing-chiming is utterly impossible - there just wouldn't be sufficient control
*  Mechanical chiming - quite possible, but (if such a system were used) why would a written notation be needed? The chime barrel would be set to perform the whole tune
*  Stationary chiming done manually (i.e. "clocking") is probably the only practical way to do this

I'd be interested to see further comments, but from a cursory reading I have a feeling quite a few of the suggestions and interpretations put forward so far would fail when put to the test of "how was this performed?"

Lastly, when it comes to clocks and chimes the word "chime" was generally reserved for a chiming mechanism (a "carillon machine" in common parlance) rather than the chimes of a clock (see Beeson's "English Church Clocks 1280-1850". The word more commonly used was "quarten" for the clock chimes. Also, it's quite common for church inventories to refer to "clock & chimes", i.e. as separate mechanisms. These are very broad generalisations, of course, but I suggest (being a turret clock historian as well as a bell man) that it's wise to start from an assumption that these distinctions apply. Of course, if demonstrable instances of other verbal usages arise then they should be accepted.

Chris Pickford
Kinver (UK)
e-mail: pickford5040 at gmail.com 

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