[Bell Historians] 17th century numbers in bell tower

Tony tony_probert at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 28 10:21:31 GMT 2022

 Regarding the clock suggestions, there are no features in the tower or walls related to a clock and I am sure there has never been a clock in the tower. This is possibly because the church has always been on the outskirts of the village.
The inscription is half-way up to the old ringing room on the turret stairs, on the rear-face of a stone riser, and at the same level as a small slit window (the only natural light on the stairs). It is hidden in plain sight as one typically looks down when climbing the small steps, and its behind you when descending. There are hardly any other inscriptions under the stairs, so from a graffiti perspective it is in an isolated location.  
I believe there are records showing 3 bells in the tower during the C16. I had assumed these would have been 'chimed' rather than 'clocked' (where the rope is attached to the clapper) but I now appreciate that we don't know everything about the bell ringing in this period. I am guessing that 'clocking' has always been avoided due to the risk of cracking the bell. I think it is safe to say that the plain bearings would have been very 'sticky' by todays standards, so even chiming might have taken a lot of effort. However, from my own chiming experience, I think it could have been relatively easy to chime a random pattern with a little practice.
Referring to an earlier comment. Raven confirms there were 4 bells in 1869, with the 3rd cast in 1666, and the 4th was cast in 1756 which is accurate, but he made a mistake and stated that the old treble had no inscription and date. In 1991, Owen Kember wrote an excellent unpublished survey of these bells that pointed out that the old treble does have the mark 'MG'. He suggests that this could be Miles Graye because he cast the old 3rd in 1629 and there are some similarities in the castings. But we know there are several generations of Miles Graye making bells so the date is not certain.

    On Friday, 28 January 2022, 09:21:40 GMT, c.j.pickford--- via Bell-historians <bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk> wrote:  
 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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