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Title and acknowlegements
Casting a bell
Bell tones and tuning
Change ringing theory
New and old
Historic odds and ends
|The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is probably one of the best known bells in the world. It was originally cast in 1752 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London, by Thomas Lester to commemorate the 50th year of the existence of the State of Pennsylvania. After a stormy, eleven-week Atlantic crossing, it was cracked whilst being hung and tested in the tower of the Philadelphia State House.
The bell was recast by John Pass and John Stow of Philadelphia, whose names appear on the new bell. Pass and Stow, who were not bell founders, added too much copper to the metal used to recast the bell and its tone proved to be unsatisfactory. The same founders recast it again, this time restoring the correct balance of copper and tin. Although the new bell did not wholly satisfy the Superintendents of the Pennsylvania Assembly, it was hung in the steeple of the State House in June 1753 and was the bell which became famous as the Liberty Bell by ringing to proclaim the Declaration of Independence on 4th July, 1776.
The recast bell cracked in 1835. Rather than recast it yet again, an attempt was made to repair it by drilling a slot along the line of the crack to prevent the two sides from vibrating against each other. Two rivets were then inserted in the slot to try and restore the bell’s tone.
Today, the Liberty Bell hangs on display in the Liberty Bell Pavilion, opposite Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and is still gently rung on 4th July each year.
|The First Peal
A ring of bells is sometimes referred to as a “peal”, but, more correctly, a peal is long piece of bell music consisting of 5,000 or more changes.
One of the self-imposed objectives of method ringers is to ring a peal. The rules agreed by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, state that a peal should be rung continuously, without breaks, and by the same team of ringers throughout. The traditional length for a peal is related to the maximum number of changes possible on seven bells (5,040), which takes approximately three hours to ring. On seven or more bells, no repetitions of changes are permitted during the course of a peal and on lesser numbers only the minimum number of repeats are allowed.
The first recorded complete peal was of Plain Bob Triples (rung on eight bells, seven bells performing the changes and the tenor, or largest bell, ringing at the end of each change “covering”), rung at St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich on 2nd May, 1715.
|Ringers’ rules from the 17th century
During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, ringers began to form themselves into organised companies. Many of these groups had extremely elaborate codes of conduct, often written in doggerel and painted on boards hung in their ringing rooms. The set depicted here dates from 1694 and dictates, in delightful rhyme, the manner in which the ringers at Tong in Shropshire should behave.
|Tintinnalogia: or, The Art of Ringing
The first text book written on change ringing, Tintinnalogia, was published in 1668 and contains many sets of changes still rung today.
See the full text of the 1671 edition of Tittinnalogia courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
|The Worms Bible
The Worms Bible was written in 1148 at the monastery of Frankenthal in the Rhineland, near Worms. It is a large Bible, over half a metre tall, preserved in two volumes. Its pages are littered with illuminations, including this one showing a musician playing a set of bells. The letters written on each bell, clearly show that by the twelfth century bell founders were capable of producing bells tuned to a musical scale.