[Bell Historians] Alphabet Bells

Richard Johnston johnstonrh at rhj.org.uk
Tue Mar 8 12:54:55 GMT 2022

Andrew A wrote: 
>  I often read reference to "Alphabet Bells" -? those with inscriptions
> using the letters of the alphabet in order (or at least some of them) as
> being a practice used by post reformation founders to avoid using any
> pious inscriptions which might inflame the passions of tender
> "Christians".? I had thought differently in that if one was less literate
> and acquired a set of letter stamps then the best thing to do was to put
> them in order - you may have learnt that at least.??
> However, there is an ancient practice of writing two alphabets (Latin and
> Greek) in ashes on the ground to be consecrated for a new church
> building.? This was part of the "exorcism" of the land - a way to bless
> the plot.? The inclusion of an alphabet on a bell would seem to have much
> deeper roots than mere avoidance of insult.

I would not have thought this proposed connection very likely. 

In the immediate post-Reformation period woulkd not consecration of 
objects have been seen as Romish?

The Reformed CofE only got a consecration ritual for bishops, priests 
& deacons in 1550 (i.e. nothing in 1549 PB).  There was nothing 
appointed for consecrating churches. 
(https://books.google.co.uk/books?vid=OCLC03647263, page xx)

There is an account of a church consecration during the controversial 
Laudian period in the reign of Charles I, recorded in Annals of the 
Reign of Charles I., p386, London 1681 (and transcribed on p109-110 
of "Book of Common Prayer in its History and Interpretation &c." by 
Rev R P Blakeney 2nd ed 1866) but though this involves dust there is 
no reference to alphabets. 

Richard Johnston

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