[r-t] Historic spliced minor

Philip Earis pje24 at cantab.net
Wed Dec 14 13:14:52 UTC 2016

On Monday this week in Denby I’m very glad to see that James Platt’s
historic extent of spliced minor was rung

This is likely only the 2nd time this has been rung (there’s evidence this
was rung for the first time in 1868, which would make it one of the first
known extents of spliced – see 4th paragraph of the October 1881 Bell
News: http://www.cccbr.org.uk/library/olpubs/bellnews/bnf009.pdf).

The story of the composition is rather interesting, and is detailed in
Karl Grave’s genuinely riveting book, “Forbidden Methods”
The pioneering work of the composer, James Platt of Saddleworth, was known
about by Rev. H Law James and other stalwarts of the early Central
Council, who outrageously attempted to airbrush it from history, feeling
the methods were illegitimate. How times change.

Coincidentally, no doubt, H Law James happily took credit for being the
founder of spliced when he produced his own minor compositions around

Platt’s extent composition was described as “Crown Bob” – today we would
describe it as 9 methods spliced together. David Adams describes some of
the background to the composition at
http://www.fultonsonline.co.uk/CDG/archive2.htm (reproduced below - I’d
hate for this webpage to be lost).

James Platt’s Crown Bob

Archives Occasional Paper No. 2.

Probably the most precious item in the Chester Diocesan Guild’s Archives
is a small piece of paper – actually two pieces stuck together – which has
on both sides a neatly copied and complete 720 of spliced Treble Bob Minor
- see Side 1 & Side 2 (in portable document format requiring Acrobat
Reader). (For a typed Microsoft Word document, click here).

This document was found amongst the papers of the late C. Kenneth Lewis,
and came into the Archives in 2005. Its existence was known prior to that
date, however. Michael Foulds, a prominent member of the Whiting Society
and author of several of the publications of that society, alerted the
Guild Archivist to its possible whereabouts. In fact an article by Cyril
Wratten in the Ringing World of April 18 1969 mentions a manuscript in the
hands of Kenneth Lewis. It did not take the Archivist too long to find it
and it has now been carefully preserved for future generations.

What, then, is the significance of this 720? It is in nine methods, some
of which are irregular, and some even have internal places made in 5-6. It
will not tempt, therefore, many modern devotees of Spliced Treble-dodging
Minor to ring it. There are more interesting extents and better methods on
hand nowadays. And Since Brian Mills’s band first rang a peal in 210
methods in 1969 it has been possible to ring extents in 30 methods,
although that needs a fair amount of learning and dedication. Its
importance lies in the fact that it is almost certainly the oldest extant
19th century copy of a 720 which formed part of a series of extents of TB
Minor methods in three, seven and nine methods composed around the middle
of the century. As Cyril Wratten pointed out in his 1969 article, it would
not be until 1936 that another 720 in as many methods would be composed.

First of all what is the history of this manuscript? It was given to Ken
Lewis by Tom Wilde of Hyde. In a letter to the Ringing World of March 23
1923 Tom Wilde says he had found it among the papers of his father, and he
had been told by an old Hyde ringer that the 720 had been copied out by
Tom Wilde’s grandfather (James Wilde 1833-1878, the father of the James S.
Wilde who went to New Zealand in 1899). The manuscript, then, must date
from at least the 1870s. What, however, of the composer? The manuscript
says it was composed by the late James Platt of Saddleworth Fold. Tom
Wilde wrote, in 1923, that he did not know when James Platt died, but the
Cyril Wratten article gives a date of 1858. He quoted a reference from
Jasper Snowdon who wrote a memoir of one William Harrison which appeared
in Bell News after Harrison’s death in 1880. Harrison had taken part at
Saddleworth in a 720 in seven different methods conducted by James Platt.
Thus we can probably conclude that Platt’s Crown Bob in nine methods was
put together in the 1850s.

The first of Platt’s spliced series of TB methods, the one in three
methods (New London, Violet and Oxford), was rung in March 1849 at
Saddleworth, and the performance was reported in the Era, a Sunday sports
paper. It is very significant that when the Rev. H. Law James arranged 14
Surprise Minor methods into seven true extents in 1910-11 it was believed
that something very new was being rung, and thus the Exercise was first
introduced to true Spliced Minor ringing.

This is patently untrue, but clearly generally believed. Very important
progress in the theory of Spliced Minor was being made up in the Pennines
in the middle of the 19th century. James Platt was undoubtedly way ahead
of his time. Harold Chant, in the introduction to his Method Splicing,
published in the late 1960s, acknowledges that James Platt arranged the
720 in nine methods – although he said it was in 1880 – but he wrote that
it was difficult to see ‘how the arrangement could be true’. The 720 in
our Archives, with the exact figures which James Platt put down, is
completely true.

‘Splicing’ had been practised for very many years before Platt’s Crown Bob
series were put together. Cyril Wratten, in Volume 3 of Change Ringing:
The History of an English Art (1994), postulates that Crown Bob – which
refers to the joining together of methods into a single touch – derives
its name from the joining together of the Scottish and English crowns in
1603 (when James VI of Scotland became James I of England). The name first
appeared in print in 1702 but no explanation of its origin was given.
Thus, Wratten surmises, the idea of ‘splicing’ goes back a long way,
probably well into the seventeenth century. Yet methods were put together
without any regard for truth. It would appear, certainly according to
Wratten, that James Platt composed the first true 720 of Spliced Minor
with his three methods rung in 1849. Strictly speaking that was in two
methods, since a lead of Violet is simply a bobbed lead of New London TB.
It is also true that ‘combined’ Oxford and Kent had been rung six years
prior to that, but that is not proper lead-end splicing.

Platt obviously knew what he was about; and he was very probably the first
person to use techniques which are now well known to serious ringers of
Spliced Minor. Essentially he has taken a three-part 720 of Oxford with 3
as observation bell. British Queen (which is now known as Snowdrop) has
been inserted into the first course as a three-lead splice (with 3 and 4
as fixed bells). Holmfirth and Oxford are lead-splicers, so the former can
easily be incorporated into the first course. The other six methods all
have the same changes in a lead; they are also course-splicers with
Oxford, and so they constitute the second course of each part. It would
easily be possible to add four more methods: Kingston, Capel, and Tivydale
and Spencer (which are Holmfirth-up and Kingston-in and Capel-in
respectively). British Queen is not the only method which has a name no
longer recognised: New York is Sandal; Nelson’s Victory is not the method
which became popular again a couple of years ago with the 200th
anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar but is now called Navigation, but
is really Reverse Oxford; and Glossop should be called Bolsterstone.

It is most fitting that the Platt/Wilde manuscript should have been kept
by Ken Lewis, himself a great Multi-Minor ringer and composer. It is even
more fitting that the Chester Diocesan Guild should have this document, as
it was our Guild which did so much to advance the cause of Spliced Minor
ringing. Your Archivist still harbours the desire to call this extent, and
just needs five other people to join him in ringing these methods, some of
which are, frankly, rather unappealing.

David Adams
CDG Archivist
Tuesday, 26 June 2007

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