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Recorded: WAH 5/5/01
Analysed: WAH 6/5/01
These bells, a heavy Taylor six of 1903, hang in the South-West tower of the Cathedral. Two other bells, a small clock bell by Taylors and a heavier swinging bell, hang in the North-West tower. The six are a classic Taylor peal of their date and their tuning is of interest. I offer my grateful thanks to Rev. Shahid Mehraj, vicar of the Cathedral, who gave me a warm welcome when I dropped in to examine and record his bells. I would recommend that visitors to the area get in touch with him. An account of a previous visit by Dave Kelly appears in the Ringing World of 19 November 1993, page 1133. The vicar knew about this article and was proud his bells had been featured. A further account by Tom Roast appears in RW no. 4541 of May 1998.
This photograph and many of the historical details are taken from the Cathedral guide-book. The Cathedral is constructed from red brick and pink sandstone in the gothic style - the architect was John Oldrid Scott. The Cathedral was built in 1887, but as originally constructed the west towers did not rise above the roof. When completed (sometime prior to 1898) the two west towers and a central tower over the crossing carried spires. These were removed in 1911 following an earthquake. The ringing bells are in the South-West tower (nearer the photographer). The guide-book says 'Originally the frame for the bells was made to accomodate eight, but only six of them arrived from England. They were cast in 1903 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough. The largest bell is about 1 ton in weight and when in use, the foundations used to vibrate.'
The bells are hung in a two tier frame positioned at the level of the tall louvres at the top of the tower. The ringing room is at the level of the lower set of slit windows, at the top of the external spiral stair. I estimate the rope draught to have been about 40 feet, through two intermediate floors. The ringing room still contains an 8-bell Ellacombe apparatus from which the bells are now chimed. On my visit, one of the locals demonstrated accurate and very fast rounds on the Ellacombe. I am told the bells are rung in this way for all the major services, an innovation since 1993 when Dave Kelly tells me the bells were not used. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to take this photograph I did not make a recording of all six chimed together, but here is the sound of the tenor sounded alone.
In the top floor of the North-West tower there is a clock of 1862, disused, with a clock bell hung from a portion of the clock-case. I could not read the whole inscription without dismantling the case, which I was loth to do - the visible portion of the inscription reads 'Taylor & Co. Loughborough'. The bell has radial angular canons from which it is hung and David Bryant suggests this dates it to the 1860s.
Also in the North-West tower is a larger bell hung from two parallel girders spanning the tower above the clock case. The bell has no canons and is hung from a thin, curved metal headstock. Outside one of the girders, an iron wheel after the continental pattern allows the bell to be swung by a rope hanging down to the room at the top of the spiral staircase. The swinging bell still has its clapper and looks as if it is regularly used. I climbed on top of the clock case via a rickety ladder from where I could see part of the inscription (reading 'England 1892') but did not venture across the girders to look at the far side of the bell. The inside of the bell shows lathe tuning marks and from its harmonics I surmise it is a Taylor bell.
Both towers have two intermediate floors between ringing rooms and bells, of solid timber construction on large joists. Where the original ladders still exist they are of very solid construction. However, in the South-West tower the ladder from the ringing room consists of rungs of bamboo tied to stiles and is no longer safe. This ladder passes through the central opening in the floor above and there seems no provision for a permanent ladder. Therefore, to get access to the bells it is necessary to go up the spiral staircase of the North-West tower, use the ladder to the next floor, and then via passages in the walls and an external walkway above the west window, enter the South-West tower. A further ladder then brings you to the floor beneath the bells. The steel foundation beams for the frame are about twelve feet above this floor, and a further rickety ladder allows one to reach the frame itself.
The steel / cast iron bell frame is in two tiers, an 'H' frame below with bells 1, 3, 5 and 6, and a low-side frame above with bells 2 and 4 and two empty pits. Both tiers of the frame have the bells ranged around a central hole, presumably to allow the bells to be brought in or out. All the bells have cast-iron headstocks and are complete with stays (with a home-made look about them), Hastings dingles and tracks, clappers, wheels and Ellacombe hammers. The empty pits are fitted with Hastings tracks and ground pulleys. The bells are on plain bearings, and although I was unable to lift the caps because the hinges had rusted, those bells I tried swung. The ground-pulleys spun freely. Despite a large hole in the tower roof due to the trapdoor being missing, the whole installation was in good condition with little rust on the metal-work. The bells are bright and indented where the Ellacombe hammers strike. I could not see or feel any indentation where the clappers would hit. Therefore, although there are rope holes through both floors to the ringing room I believe the bells have hardly been rung full circle. The tower walls are thick (at least 3 feet) up to the level of the top of the upper frame. The last ten feet or so of the tower walls appear to be quite thin. It was not possible to climb through the trap door onto the tower roof because the last ladder had collapsed into a pile of bamboo and rope in the corner.
|ringing peal||Taylor 1903||none since|
|clock bell||Taylor 1860s??||none since|
|chiming bell||Taylor?? 1892||none since|
Tenor nominal: 686Hz (measured at about 45 degrees centigrade!).
(The figures in this table are given in cents. For all partials except the nominal, the interval is given from the nominal of the bell. Intervals for the nominals are relative to that of the tenor. Pairs of values indicate a doublet. Frequencies for the quint are often not given, especially if inaudible.)
I am grateful to Stephen Ivin for obtaining for me the tuning figures for the nominals of these bells as given by Taylors. These figures, in Hz, are given in the table below in three columns: planned (the theoretical value calculated by the tuner): achieved (that meaured by Taylors after tuning): and WAH (the figure I measure from my recordings). The discrepancies between the last two columns, which are minor, are due to a combination of any errors in Taylor's measurements, the rather extreme conditions under which I took the recordings, and any speed variation in my video camera.
For interest, here are the figures I measured for the non-ringing bells.
Clock bell nominal: 1850.5Hz. Chiming bell nominal 936Hz (both measured at about 45 degrees centigrade).
One can't read too much into the intensity plots from my recordings of these bells, because the video camera was quite close, leading to some distortion; and also because I sounded the bells with the Ellacombe hammers, which hit a random spot on the soundbow. However, here for what they are worth are plots of the treble and the tenor:
First, the ringing peal. These are a smashing job, showing Taylors at their best. A century in a relatively inhospitable environment - not much atmospheric pollution, but extremes both of temperature and humidity - has made no difference to their tuning. The nominals are tuned in just temperament - the treble and fourth are well flat of equal. It's notable that neither Newcastle (11 years before) nor Henfield (10 years after) are tuned in this way; this is the first just-temperament Taylor peal I have analysed. The hums and primes are all very close octaves, showing the quality of these bells. What is rather unusual is the similarity of tuning of the superquints and octave nominals across the peal. Surely Taylors were not tuning these partials? Rather, I think it must demonstrate compatibility of the profiles of all the bells. Though I have highlighted some doublets, they are not particularly audible and do not spoil the bells in any way.
As explained above, the intensity profiles may be misleading. The tenor as sounded by its Ellacombe hammer shows some brassiness, the treble is all mellow nominal and hum. Had I sounded each with its clapper the results would have been more useful.
The clock bell is definitely by Taylors, as is clear from its inscription. This bell with its near octave hum and prime is a good sounding bell. If it is indeed of the 1860s, as its canons would indicate, it is a very good bell for its date. The chiming bell is dated 1892, and I imagine is also by Taylors. Unfortunately this bell's very flat and loud prime spoils its tone somewhat.
Last updated June 3, 2001. Site created by Bill Hibbert, Great Bookham, Surrey