History of Bells

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Bells are musical instruments of percussion, consisting of a series of metal basins or cups, the outline of which has from time to time been modified. The materials of which bells are usually made are copper and tin, the proportions varying in several countries and even among the manufacturers.

The various parts of the bells are A, the Canons; B, the Shoulder; C, the Waist; the thick part between D and E, the Sound Bow; E, the Rim or lip; F, the Clapper. The following analyses of English and some foreign bells, will give a correct idea of the composition of older bells.

ENGLISH BELLS. Copper ……..80.0 % Tin …………10.1 % Zinc …………5.6 % Lead …………4.3 % ROUEN BELLS. Copper ……..72.0 % Tin …………25.0 % Zinc ……….…1.8 % Lead …………1.2 % PARIS BEL,LS. Copper ……… 72.90 % Tin ………….. 25.56 % Iron …………… 1.54 % SWISS HOUR BELLS. Copper ……….75.0 % Tin …………. 25.0 %

2.The use of bells to call worshippers together is supposed to be of Christian origin, but it is said that the feast of Osiris in Egypt was announced by the ringing of bells. Aaron and the Jewish high priests had bells attached to their vestments, and P1utarch says that small bells were used in the mysteries of Bacchus, and the priests of Cybele at Athens employed bells in their rites. The Greeks sounded bells in their camps, and the Romans indicated the hours of bathing and business by the tintinnabulum. It is also said, that in some places large gongs were suspended in the air, and as the wind brought them together, so was the character of the sounds made, interpreted as an unfavourable or favourable augury. Trumpets were employed among the Jews to call the faithful to worship (Exodus xx., 13; Numbers x., 2; Joel ii., 15). Plates of .iron are still used in the Levant, and a plank of wood is occasionally employed for the same purpose that we use bells in some of the old Wallachian monasteries. In the East the call to prayer is made by the Mueddin of each mosque, who, having ascended the gallery of the mad’neh or minaret, chants the “hadan” or call to .prayer. The introduction of bells into churches is attributed to Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in Campania, about the year 400, but there is an epistle of that bishop still extant in which he describes his church, but makes no mention of either tower or bells; indeed, it is believed that towers were not constructed until two centuries later. Yet it is not a little remarkable that the general name for bells was Nolae or Campanae, and hence the words knoll as meaning the sound of a single bell, and campanile a bell tower. Sabianus, who was Pope in 604, ordered the bells to ring the horae canonicae at the proper times during the day, and Benedict, Abbot of Wearmouth, brought his bells from Italy about the year 680. Bells were hung in towers in the East in the 9th, and in Germany in the 11th century. Those that were in use before are supposed to be hand bells; several examples, as old as the 6th century, are still preserved in some parts of Europe and the United Kingdom. St. Patrick’s bell, St. Ninian’s bell, St. Gall’s bell, and others are plates of iron rivetted together; St. Gall’s bell (about 646) is still shown in the monastery of the city called by his name in Switzerland. In, the 13th century larger bells were cast, but it was not until the end of the 15th century that they began to assume great proportions. St. Dunstan, in the l0th century, seems to have the credit of having established the first foundry in England, Glastonbury, Malmesbury, and other places having been furnished with bells by him. Bells were rung not only to indicate the commencement of certain services, but also were tolled to mark certain stages in those services. Thus we find mention made of the Saints or Sanctus bell, the Compline bell, the Judas bell, the Pardon or Ave bell, the Passing bell, the last tolled to warn all “Christen soules” to pray for the parting soul of the dying. Bells, being thus intimately connected with the services of the Church, have been supposed to possess a certain sacred character. They were founded with religious ceremonies, consecrated, baptized, and were anointed with holy oil (see Schiller’s “Lay”). St. Colomba, in the 6th century, made use of a bell whose name was ” Dia Dioghaltus,” or “God’s vengeance,” to test the truth of assertions made, as it was believed that the wrath of God would speedily overtake any who swore falsely by it. Pious inscriptions are frequent on bells of the middle ages, and inscriptions, not always pious, are found on those of later date. Bells were often rung to allay storms, there being a special endowment belonging to Old St. Paul’s, “for ringinge the hallowed belle in great tempestes and lightninges.” The curfew bell, still sounded in many parts of England and Scotland, is of more ancient practice than the period usually assigned as its commencement, the reign of. William the Norman; and there are many social practices announced by the ringing or tolling of the church bells.

3. Change ringing, or campanology, is frequently practised when there are more than three bells, such changes being known by the names of bob-majors, bob triples, Norwich court bobs, grandsire bob-triples, and caters. The number of changes a set of bells is capable of, may be known by in-multiplying the numbers of the set. Thus, three bells may ring six changes, 1 2 3, 1 3 2, 21 3, 23 I, 32 I, 3 1 2; four bells will give 24 changes; 5 bells, 120 changes; 6 bells, 720 changes; 7 bells, 5040 changes; 8 bells, 40,320 changes; 9 bells, 362,880 changes; 10 bells, 3,628,800 changes; 11 bells, 39,916,800 changes; 12 bells, 479,001,600 changes. To ring the changes that 12 bells are capable of, would take 91 years at two strokes per second, while a peal of 24 bells can make so many changes that it would occupy 117,000 billions of years to ring them all. The technical terms for the various peals, on sets of bells of different numbers, are the following:

Rounds On three bells. Changes or singles ” four ” Doubles or grandsires ” five ” (Bobs) Minor ” six ” Triples ” seven ” (Bobs) Major ” eight ” Caters ” nine ” (Bobs) Royal ” ten ” Cinques ” eleven ” (Bobs) Maximus ” twelve ”

4. A bell is said to be “set” when she is mouth upwards, at “hand stroke” when the ” sallie” or tuft on the rope has to be pulled, at “back stroke” when the ringer has to pull the end of the rope. A bell is said to be “going up” when she moves her position in the change from “treble” towards that of “tenor,” and “down” when she is changing her position from that of “tenor” towards that of “treble.” A bell is said to be “behind” when she is the last of the changing bells, and at “lead” when she is the first. Thus the progress from “lead” to behind is said to be “going up,” and from behind to lead is called “going down.” “Dodging” is moving a place backwards out of the ordinary hunting course. A bell is said to be “hunting up” when she is pulled after the one which previously pulled after her. A bell is said to “make a place” when she strikes two blows in succession at anyone place. To “lie a whole pull” is synonymous with “making a place.” Two blows at “lead” and “behind” are a part of “hunting,” in making these therefore a bell is not said to be “making a place.” “Bob” and “singles” are words used to produce a certain series of changes by disturbing the ordinary system of “hunting.” The full knowledge of the meaning of these and many other technical terms used in ringing can only be learnt in the belfry. The method of Doubles named after Stedman. (1640) is, in principle, as follows: while three of the bells are ringing changes, the other two are dodging behind, but at the completion of each set of six changes one bell comes down from behind to take part in the changes, one, of course, at the same time going up behind to take part in the dodging.

5. Bells are occasionally employed as orchestral instruments-small bells, tuned to a certain scale, being most favored-as in Victor Masse’s “Les noces de Jeannette,” a whole peal of small bells being used with great effect. These, as in Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” are so arranged as to be played with keys, like a pianoforte. Auber employs a single bell in the finale to “Fra Diavolo.” Rossini has introduced a bell sounding

in the opening of the second act of “William Tell” Donizetti also, in the finale to “Lucia di Lammermoor,” has written for a bell tuned to the same note. Meyerbeer, in his “Huguenots,” employs a bell in

with clarinets and bassoons. In “Dinorah,” in what is popularly known as the “Goat Trio,” a bell with the note

is used. Ambroise Thomas has a series of clever harmonies for the orchestra in his opera “Hamlet,” while a deep-toned bell strikes the midnight hour. Flotow, in “Martha,” uses a bell, as does Gounod in “Jeanne d’Arc,” tuned to the following note:

and there are numerous other instances where bells of all grades of tone have been used with skill and effect. Bell founding. The shape and proportions of the intended bell having been decided upon according to a certain scale, the first part of the process of casting is commenced, by constructing an inner mould called the core, by which the form of the inside of the bell is determined. This core has a foundation of rough brickwork or iron, hollow in the centre, afterwards plastered over with loam or soft clay. A guage of wood, called a crook, made to revolve or sweep round on a central pivot by the hand of a workman, gives the clay the exact form required. This process will be at once understood on reference to the following diagram. A is the core, B the crook, which is fastened to c, the pivot on which it revolves:

The core is hardened by a fire made in its hollow, and when it is sufficiently “set,” it is covered with grease and tan, over which is placed a coating of haybands and loam, of the thickness of the intended bell, and upon this the cope or outer mould is shaped. When this is dried it is removed, the thickening of haybands and loam which represented the shape of the bell to be cast, is destroyed, and the two moulds, the core and the cope, are examined and finished. The core is sometimes made on an iron foundation, instead of brickwork, in which case it can be dried in a furnace, instead of by the fire in its hollow. The cope having been carefully adjusted over the core, the head and the staple to hold the clapper are then fitted on, and. the whole mould is firmly imbedded in the earth, leaving only the holes at the top visible.

The above diagram shows the position of mould ready for the metal. A is the core, B the cope, F the channel for the metal to run in, E the hole for the air and gases to escape during the casting, and the thick black line the section of the bell. When the metal is quite ready, the furnace-door is opened, and the molten mass rushes down a channel, previously prepared, into the moulds sunk in the pits, and excepting mishaps, from insecure “bedding,” the splitting of the cope, or other accidents, the bell is cast, and, when cold, is dug from the pit; the clay mould destroyed, and the bell is ready for the next .process, that of tuning. The tuning is effected by means of a lathe and some simple machinery. If the bell requires sharpening, the diameter is lessened in proportion to its substance, if it is too sharp, the sound-bow is thinned by the same means; but, as a rule, bells are now so accurately cast, that little if any tuning is necessary after the bell leaves the mould. It is stated in “Knight’s Encyc1opedia, 1854,” that the German bell-founders made the various dimensions of the bell to bear certain ratios to each other. The thickest part where the hammer strikes is called the “Sound Bow.” If this thickest be called one, then the diameter of the mouth equals 15, the diameter of the top or shoulder 7.5, the height equals 12, and the weight of the clapper 1/40 of the weight of the bell. Denison recommends that the sound bow of the three, or four larger bells of a peal should be of the thickness of a thirteenth of the diameter, and that the smaller bells may gradually increase in thickness up to the twelfth in a peal of six, the eleventh in a peal of eight, and to the tenth in a peal of ten or twelve, greater thickness impeding the freedom of the sound. The bells of the Cathedral at Exeter, one of the largest peal of bells in England, the greater number of which were cast in 1676, have the following weights, diameters, and tones; – WEIGHT DIAMETER TONE Cwt. qr lb. Ft. in. 67 1 20 5 11.5 Bflat. 46 3 14 5 4.5 C. 38 1 16 4 11 D. 30 1 12 4 7 E flat. 21 0 0 4 1 F. 15 0 0 3 10 G. 12 2 0 3 4.5 A. 10 1 2 3 1.5 B flat. 9 3 20 3 0 C. 8 3 20 2 9.5 D. The relative diameters of a peal of eight tuneable bells should be according to the following proportion: 60, 53.5, 48, 45, 40, 36, 32, 30. The relative weights being generally in the proportion, 100, 70.23, 51.2, 42.2, 29.63, 21.6, 15.18, 12.5.


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