1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bell

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BELL a hollow metallic vessel used for making a more or less loud noise (A.S. bellan, to bellow; Mid. Eng. “to bell”; cf. “As loud as belleth, winde in helle,” in Chaucer, House of Fame, iii. 713). Bells are usually cup-like in shape, and are constructed so as to give one fundamental note when struck. The term does not strictly include gongs, cymbals, metal plates, resonant bars of metal or wood, or tinkling ornaments, such as e.g. the “bells” upon the Jewish high priest’s dress (Exodus xxviii. 32); nor is it necessary here to deal with the common useful varieties of sheep or cow bells, or bells on sledges or harness. For house bells see the end of this article. A “diving-bell” (see Divers) is only so called from the analogy of its shape.

The main interest of bells and bell-ringing has reference to church or tower bells, their history, construction and uses.

Early Bells.—Of bells before the Christian era there is no trustworthy evidence. The instruments which summoned the Romans to public baths or processions, or that which Lucian (A.D. 180) describes as set in motion by a water-clock (clepsydra) to measure time, were probably cymbals or resonant plates of metal, like the timbrels (corybantia aera, Virg. Aen. iii. 111) used in the worship of Cybele, or the Egyptian sistrum, which seems to have been a sort of rattle. The earliest Latin word for a bell (campana) is late Latin of the 4th or 5th century A.D.; and the first application of bells to churches has been ascribed to Paulinus, bishop of Nola in Campania about A.D. 400. There is, however, no confirmation of this story, which may have arisen from the words campana and nola (a small bell); and in a letter from Paulinus to the emperor Severus, describing very fully the decoration of his church, the bishop makes no mention of bells. It has been maintained with somewhat more reason that Pope Sabinianus (604) first used church bells; but it seems clear that they were introduced into France as early as 550. In the 7th century Bede mentions a bell brought from Italy by Benedict Biscop for his abbey at Wearmouth, and speaks of the sound of a bell being well known at Whitby Abbey at the time of St Hilda’s death (680). St Dunstan hung many in the 10th century; and in the 11th they were not uncommon in Switzerland and Germany. It is said that the Greek Christians were unacquainted with bells till the 9th century; but it is known that for political reasons, after the taking of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, their use was forbidden lest they should provide a popular signal for revolt.

Several old bells are extant in Scotland, Ireland and Wales; the oldest are often quadrangular, made of thin iron plates hammered and riveted together. A well-known specimen is St Patrick’s bell preserved at Belfast, called Clog an eadhachta Phatraic, “the bell of St Patrick’s will.” It is 6 in. high, 5 broad, 4 deep, adorned with gems and gold and silver filigree-work; it is inscribed 1091 and 1105, but it is probably alluded to in Ulster annals in 552. (For Scottish bells, see Illustrated Catalogue of Archaeological Museum, Edinburgh, for 1856.)

The four-sided bell of the Irish missionary St Gall (646) is preserved at the monastery of St Gall, Switzerland. In these early times bells were usually small; even in the 11th century a bell presented to the church at Orleans weighing 2600 ℔ was thought large. In the 13th century larger bells were cast. The bell Jacqueline of Paris, cast in 1400, weighed 15,000 ℔; another Paris bell of 1472, 25,000 ℔; and the famous Amboise bell at Rouen (1501) 36,364 ℔.

To these scanty records of the early history of bells may be added the enumeration of different kinds of bells by Hieronymus Magius, in his work De Tintinnabulis:—1. Tintinnabulum, a little bell, otherwise called tinniolum, for refectory or dormitory, according to Joannes Belethus, but Guillaume Durand names squilla for the refectory; 2. Petasius, or larger “broad-brimmed hat” bell; 3. Codon, orifice of trumpet, a Greek hand-bell; 4. Nola, a very small bell, used in the choir, according to Durand; 5. Campana, a large bell, first used in the Latin churches in the steeple (Durand), in the tower (Belethus); 6. Squilla, a shrill little bell. We read of cymbalum for the cloister (Durand) or campanella for the cloister (Belethus); nolula or dupla in the clock; signum in the tower (e.g. in the Excerptions of St Egbert, 750); the Portuguese still call a bell sino.

Bell-founding.—The earliest bells were probably not cast, but made of plates riveted together, like the bells of St Gall or Belfast above mentioned. The bell-founder’s art, originally practised in the monasteries, passed gradually into the hands of a professional class, by whom, in England and the Low Countries especially, were gradually worked out the principles of construction, mixture of metals, lines and proportions, now generally accepted as necessary for a good bell. In England some of the early founders were peripatetic artificers, who travelled about the country, setting up a temporary foundry to cast bells wherever they were wanted. Miles Graye (c. 1650), a celebrated East Anglian founder, carried on his work in this fashion, and in old churchwardens’ accounts are sometimes found notices of payment for the casting of bells at places where no regular foundry is known to have existed. The chief centres of the art in medieval times were London, York, Gloucester and Nottingham; and bells by e.g. “John of York” (14th century), Samuel Smith, father and son, of York (1680–1730), Abraham Rudhall and his descendants of Gloucester (1684–1774), Mot (16th century), Lester and Pack (1750), Christopher Hodson of London (who cast “Great Tom” of Oxford, 1681) and Richard Phelps (1716) are still in high repute. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry (now Mears and Stainbank), established by Robert Mot in 1570, incorporated the business of the Rudhalls, Lester and Pack, Phelps, Briant and others, and is now one of the leading firms of bell-founders; others being Warner and Sons of Spitalfields and Taylor & Co., Loughborough, the founders of “Great Paul” for St Paul’s cathedral (1881). Of Dutch and Flemish founders the firms of van den Gheyn (1550), Hemony (1650), Aerschodt & Wagheven at Louvain and others have a great reputation in the Low Countries, especially for “carillons,” such as those at Antwerp or Bruges, a form of bell-music which has not taken much root in England, despite the advocacy of the Rev. H. R. Haweis, who proclaimed its superiority to English change-ringing.

Bell-metal is a mixture of copper and tin in the proportion of 4 to 1. In Henry III.’s reign it was 2 to 1. In Layard’s Nineveh bronze bells, it was 10 to 1. Zinc and lead are used in small bells. The thickness of the bell’s edge is about one-tenth of its diameter, and its height is twelve times its thickness.

Bells, like viols, have been made of every conceivable shape within certain limits. The long narrow bell, the quadrangular, and the mitre-shaped in Europe at least indicate antiquity, and the graceful curved-inwardly-midway and full trumpet-mouthed bell indicates an age not earlier than the 16th century.

The bell is first designed on paper according to the scale of measurement. Then the crook is made, which is a kind of double wooden compass, the legs of which are respectively curved to the shape of the inner and outer sides of the bell, a space of the exact form and thickness of the bell being left betwixt them. The compass is pivoted on a stake driven into the bottom of the casting-pit. A stuffing of brickwork is built round the stake, leaving room for a fire to be lighted inside it. The outside of this stuffing is then padded with fine soft clay, well mixed and bound together with calves’ hair, and the inner leg of the compass run round it, bringing it to the exact shape of the inside of the bell. Upon this core, well smeared with grease, is fashioned the false clay bell, the outside of which is defined by the outer leg of the compass. Inscriptions are now moulded in wax on the outside of the clay-bell; these are carefully smeared with grease, then lightly covered with the finest clay, and then with coarser clay, until a solid mantle is thickened over the outside of the clay bell. A fire is now lighted, and the whole baked hard; the grease and wax inscriptions steam out through holes at the top, leaving the sham clay bell baked hard and tolerably loose, between the core and the cope or mantle. The cope is then lifted, the clay bell broken up, the cope let down again, enclosing now between itself and the core the exact shape of the bell. The metal is then boiled and run molten into the mould. A large bell will take several weeks to cool. When extricated it ought to be scarcely touched and should hardly require tuning. This is called its maiden state, and it used to be so sought after that many bells were left rough and out of tune in order to claim it.

Bell Tones and Tuning.—A good bell, fairly struck, should give out three distinct notes—a “fundamental” note or “tonic”; the octave above, or “nominal”; and the octave below, or “hum-note.” (It also gives out the “third” and “fifth” above the fundamental; but of these it is less necessary to take notice.) Very few bells, however, have any two of these notes, and hardly any all three, in unison—the “hum-notes” being generally a little sharper, and the “fundamentals” a little flatter, than their respective “nominals.” In tuning a “ring” or series of bells, the practice of founders has hitherto been to take one set of notes (in England usually the nominals, on the continent the fundamentals) and put these into tune, leaving the other tones to take care of themselves. But in different circumstances different tones assert themselves. Thus, when bells are struck at considerable intervals, the fundamental notes being fuller and more persistent are more prominent; but when struck in rapid succession (as in English change-ringing or with the higher bells of a Belgian “carillon,” which take the “air”) the higher tone of the “nominal” is more perceptible. The inharmonious character of many Belgian carillons, and of certain Belgian and French rings in England, is ascribed by Canon A. B. Simpson (in his pamphlet, Why Bells sound out of Tune, 1897) to neglect of the “nominals,” the fundamentals only being tuned to each other. To tune a series of bells properly, the fundamental tone of each bell must be brought into true octave with its nominal, and the whole series of bells, thus rectified, put into tune with each other. The “hum-note” of each, which is the tone of the whole mass of metal, should also be in tune with the others. If flatter than the nominal, it cannot be sharpened; but if sharper (as is more usual), it may be flattened by thinning the metal near the crown of the bell. The great bell (“Great Paul”) cast by Messrs Taylor for St Paul’s cathedral, London, has all its tones in true harmony, except that the tone next above the fundamental (E♭) is a “fourth” (A♭) instead of a “third” (G or G♭). The great bell cast by the same founders for Beverley Minster is in perfect tune; and with the improved machinery now in use, there is no reason why this should not henceforth be the case with all church bells.

The quality of a bell depends not only on the casting and the fineness and mixture of metals, but upon the due proportion of metal to the calibre of the bell. The larger the bell the lower the tone; but if we try to make a large E bell with metal only enough for a smaller F bell, the E bell will be puny and poor. It has been calculated that for a peal of bells to give the pure chord of the ground tone or key-note, third, fifth and octave, the diameters are required to be as thirty, twenty-four, twenty, fifteen, and the weights as eighty, forty-one, twenty-four and ten.

History and Uses of Bells.—The history of bells is full of romantic interest. In civilized times they have been intimately associated, not only with all kinds of religious and social uses, but with almost every important historical event. Their influence upon architecture is not less remarkable, for to them indirectly we probably owe most of the famous towers in the world. Church towers at first, perhaps, scarcely rose above the roof, being intended as lanterns for the admission of light, and addition to their height was in all likelihood suggested by the more common use of bells.

Bells early summoned soldiers to arms, as well as Christians to church. They sounded the alarm in fire or tumult; and the rights of the burghers in their bells were jealously guarded. Thus the chief bell in the cathedral often belonged to the town, not to the cathedral chapter. The curfew, the Carolus and St Mary’s bell in the Antwerp tower all belong to the town; the rest are the property of the chapter. He who commanded the bell commanded the town; for by that sound, at a moment’s notice, he could rally and concentrate his adherents. Hence a conqueror commonly acknowledged the political importance of bells by melting them down; and the cannon of the conquered was in turn melted up to supply the garrison with bells to be used in the suppression of revolts. Many a bloody chapter in history has been rung in and out by bells.

On the third day of Easter 1282, at the ringing of the Sicilian vespers (which have given their name to the affair), 8000 French were massacred in cold blood by John of Procida, who had thus planned to free Sicily from Charles of Anjou. On the 24th of August, St Bartholomew’s day, 1571, bells ushered in the massacre of the Huguenots in France, to the number, it is said, of 100,000. Bells have rung alike over slaughtered and ransomed cities; and far and wide throughout Europe in the hour of victory or irreparable loss. At the news of Nelson’s triumph and death at Trafalgar, the bells of Chester rang a merry peal alternated with one deep toll, and similar incidents could be multiplied.

There are many old customs connected with the use of church bells, some of which have died out, while others remain here and there. The best known and perhaps oldest of these is the “Curfew” (couvre-feu), first enforced (though not perhaps introduced) by William the Conqueror in England as a signal for all lights and fires to be extinguished at 8 p.m.—probably to prevent nocturnal gatherings of disaffected subjects. In many towns it survived into the 19th century as a signal for closing shops at 8 or 9; and it is still kept up in various places as an old custom; thus at Oxford the familiar boom of “Tom’s” 101 strokes is still the signal for closing college gates at 9. The largest and heaviest bells were used for the Curfew, to carry the sound as far as possible, as it did to Milton’s ear, suggesting the descriptive lines in Il Penseroso (74-75):—

Oft, on a plot of rising ground,
I hear the far-off curfew sound
Over some wide-watered shore,
Swinging slow with sullen roar.”

Gray’s allusion in the Elegy is well known; as also are those of Shakespeare to the elves “that rejoice to hear the solemn curfew” (Tempest), or the fiend that “begins at curfew and walks till the first cock” (King Lear); or Milton’s in Comus to the ghost “that breaks his magic chains at curfew time.”

Among secular uses connected with church bells are the “Mote” or “Common” bell, summoning to municipal or other meetings, as e.g. the 7th at St Mary’s, Stamford, tolled for quarter sessions, or the bell at St Mary’s, Oxford, for meetings of Convocation. In some places one of the bells is known as the “Vestry Bell.” The “Pancake Bell,” still rung here and there on Shrove Tuesday, was originally a summons to confession before Lent; the “Harvest Bell” and “Seeding Bell” called labourers to their work; while the “Gleaning Bell” fixed the hours for beginning or leaving off gleaning, so that everyone might start fair and have an even chance. The “Oven Bell” gave notice when the lord of the manor’s oven was ready for his tenants to bake their bread; the “Market Bell” was a signal for selling to begin; and in some country districts a church bell is still rung at dinner time. The general diffusion of clocks and watches has rendered bells less necessary for marking the events of daily life; and most of these old customs have either disappeared or are fast disappearing. At Strassburg a large bell of eight tons weight, known as the “Holy Ghost Bell,” is only rung when two fires are seen in the town at once; a “storm-bell” warns travellers in the plain of storms approaching from the mountains, and the “Thor Glocke” (gate bell) gives the signal for opening or shutting the city gates. On the European continent, especially in countries which, like Belgium and Holland, were distracted by constant war, bells acquired great public importance. They were formally baptized with religious ceremonies (as also in England in pre-Reformation days), the notabilities of a town or church standing as sponsors; and they were very generally supposed to have the power of scaring away evil spirits.

Other old customs are naturally connected with the ecclesiastical uses of bells. The “Passing Bell,” rung for the dying, is now generally rung after death; the ancient mode of indicating the sex of the deceased, viz. two pulls for a woman and three for a man being still very common, with many varying customs as regards the interval after death or the bell to be used, e.g. smaller bells for children and females, and larger ones for aged men; the tenor bell being sometimes reserved for the death of the incumbent, or of a bishop or member of the royal family. “Burial Peals,” once common at or after funerals to scare away the evil spirits from the soul of the departed, though discouraged by bishops as early as the 14th century, were kept alive by popular superstition, and only finally checked in Puritan times; but they have been revived, since the spread of change-ringing, in the “muffled peals” now frequently rung as a mark of respect to deceased persons of public or local importance, or the short “touches” on hand-bells sometimes rung at the grave by the comrades of a deceased ringer. The “Sermon-Bell,” rung in pre-Reformation times to give notice that a sermon was to be preached (cf. Shakespeare, Henry IV., Pt. II. iv. 2. 4-7), survives in some places in a custom of ringing the tenor bell before a service with a sermon; and a similar custom before a celebration of the Holy Communion preserves the memory of the “Sacrament Bell.” The ancient “Sanctus” or “Sance” bell, hung on the rood-screen or in a small bell cot on the chancel gable, and sounded three times when the priest said the Tersanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in the office of mass, was specially obnoxious to Puritan zeal, and few of them survived the Reformation. An early morning bell, rung in many places for no apparent reason, is probably a relic of the Ave Maria or Angelus bell. The inscription on some old bells, Lectum fuge, discute somnum (“Away from bed, shake off sleep”), points to this use, as also does the name “Gabriel” applied to the bell used for ringing the Angelus. In old times bells were generally named at their baptism, after the Virgin Mary or saints, or their donors; thus the bells at Oseney Abbey in the 13th century were called Hautclere, Doucement, Austyn, Marie, Gabriel and John; sometimes they were known by mere nicknames, such as “Great (or “Mighty”) Tom” at Oxford, or “Big Ben,” “Great Paul,” &c., in recent times.

Bell Inscriptions.—The names of bells were often stamped upon them in the casting; whence arose inscriptions upon church bells, giving in monkish Latin the name of some saint, a prayer to the Virgin, or for the soul of the donor, or a distich upon the function of the bell itself; e.g.—

Funera plango, fulgura frango, Sabbata pango,
Excito lentos, dissipo ventos, paco cruentos.”

(I mourn for death, I break the lightning, I fix the Sabbath, I rouse the lazy, I scatter the winds, I appease the cruel.)

The character of the lettering and the foundry marks upon old bells, are of great assistance in determining their date. Sometimes a set of bells has each a separate verse, e.g. on a ring of five in Bedfordshire:—

1st. “Hoc signum Petri pulsatum nomine Christi.”
 (This emblem of Peter is struck in the name of Christ.)
2nd. “Nomen Magdalene campana sonat melode.”
 (This bell named Magdalen sounds melodiously.)
3rd. “Sit nomen Domini benedictum semper in eum.”
 (May the name of the Lord always be blessed upon him, i.e. on the bell when struck.)
4th. “Musa Raphaelis sonat auribus Immanuelis.”
 (The music of Raphael sounds in the ear of Immanuel.)
5th. “Sum Rosa pulsata mundique Maria vocata.”
 (I, Maria, am struck and called the Rose of the world.)

The names of these five bells were thus:—Peter, Magdalen, (?) Jesus, Raphael and Mary.

Other inscriptions take the form of an invocation or prayer for the bell itself, its donor or those who hear it, e.g.—

Augustine tuam campanam protege sanam.”
(Augustine, protect thy bell and keep it sound.)
Sancte Johannes, ora pro animabus Johannis Pudsey, militis, et Mariae, consortae suae.”
(St John, pray for the souls of John Pudsey, knight, and Mary his wife.)
“Protege pura via quos convoco virgo Maria.”
(Guard in the way those whom I pure Virgin Mary call.)

The “Mittags Glocke” (mid-day bell) at Strassburg, taken down at the time of the French Revolution, bore the legend:

“Vox ego sum vitae; voco vos; orate venite.”
(I am the voice of life: I call you: come and pray.)

A bell in Rouen cathedral, melted down in 1793, was inscribed:

Je suis George d’Ambois,
Qui trente cinque mille pois;
Mais lui qui me pesera
Trente six mille me trouvera.”

(I am George d’Ambois, weighing 35,000 ℔; but he who weighs me will find me 36,000.)

A similar inscription is said to have been cast on the largest of the bells placed by Edward III. in a “clocher” or bell hut in the Little Cloisters at Westminster:

King Edward made mee thirty thousand weight and three,
Take mee down and wey mee and more you shall find mee.”

On the “Thor Glocke” at Strassburg above mentioned are the words:—

Dieses Thor Glocke das erst mal schallt
Als man 1618 sahlt
Dass Mgte jahr regnet man
Nach doctor Luther Jubal jahr
Das Bös hinaus das Gut hinein
Zu läuten soll igr arbeit seyn.”

The reference is to the year 1517, when Luther began his crusade, and the verse may be Englished as follows:—

When first ringeth this Gate Bell
1618 years we tell.
We reckon this a year to be
From Dr Luther’s jubilee.
To ring out ill, the good ring in,
Its daily task shall now begin.

Large Bells.—There are a few bells of world-wide renown, and several others more or less celebrated. The great bell at Moscow, “Tsar Kolokol,” which, according to the inscription, was cast in 1733, was in the earth 103 years and was raised by the emperor Nicholas in 1836. The present bell seems never to have been actually hung or rung, having been cracked in the furnace; and it now stands on a raised platform in the middle of a square. It is used as a chapel. It weighs about 180 tons, height 19 ft. 3 in., circumference 60 ft. 9 in., thickness 2 ft., weight of broken piece 11 tons. The second Moscow bell, the largest in the world in actual use, weighs 128 tons. In a pagoda in Upper Burma hangs a bell 16 ft. in diameter, weighing about 80 tons. The great bell at Peking weighs 53 tons; Nanking, 22 tons; Olmutz, 17 tons; Vienna (1711), 17 tons; Notre Dame (1680), 17 tons; Erfurt, 13 tons; Great Peter, York Minster, recast in 1845, 121/2 tons; Great Paul, at St Paul’s cathedral, 163/4 tons; Great Tom at Oxford, 71/2 tons; Great Tom at Lincoln, 51/2 tons. Big Ben of the Westminster Clock Tower weighs 131/2 tons; it was cast by George Mears under the direction of the first Lord Grimthorpe (E. Beckett Denison) in 1858. Its four quarters were cast by Warner in 1856. The “Kaiserglocke” of Cologne cathedral, recast in 1875, with metal from French cannon captured in 1870–1871, weighs 271/2 tons.

These large bells are either not moved at all, or only slightly swung to enable the clapper to touch their side; in some cases they are struck by a hammer or beam from outside. The heaviest ringing peals in England are those at Exeter and St Paul’s cathedrals, tenors 72 cwt. and 62 cwt. respectively.

Bell-ringing.—The science and art of bell-ringing, as practised upon church and tower bells, falls under two main heads:—(1) Mechanical ringing, in connexion with the machinery of a clock or “carillon”; (2) Ringing by hand, by means of ropes attached to the fittings of the bells, whereby the bell itself is either moved as it hangs mouth downwards sufficiently for the clapper just to touch its side (called technically “chiming”); or is swung round nearly full circle with its mouth uppermost (technically “ringing”), in which case the impact of the clapper is much heavier, and the sound produced is consequently louder and more far-reaching. Mechanical ringing is more common on the continent of Europe, especially in Belgium and Flanders; ringing by hand is more common in England, where the development of change-ringing (see below) has brought it into prominence.

(1) Mechanical ringing is effected by a system of wires connected with small hammers striking the bells, usually on their outside, and worked either by connexion with the machinery of a clock, so as to play tunes or artificially arranged chimes at definite intervals; or with a key-board resembling that of an organ. The first of these methods is familiar in the chimes (Cambridge, Westminster, &c.) heard from many towers at the striking of the hours and quarters; or in hymn tunes played at intervals (e.g. of three hours) upon the church bells. The second method is peculiar to the “carillon” (q.v.), as found everywhere in Belgium, where with a set of from 20 or 30 to 60 or 70 bells a much wider scope for tunes and harmonies is provided than in English belfries, few of which have more than one octave of bells in one key only and none more than 12 bells. The carillons at Louvain and Bruges contain 40 bells, and that of Mechlin 44, while in the tower of Antwerp cathedral there are upwards of 90 bells, for the largest of which, cast in 1507, Charles V. stood sponsor at its consecration.

(2) Ringing by Hand.—Church bells may be “chimed” or “rung” (see above). One man can, as a rule, chime three bells, with a rope in each hand and one foot in the loop of another; but by the use of an “Ellacombe” or other chiming apparatus one man can work six, eight or ten bells. Some prefer the quieter sound of chiming as an introduction to divine service, but where a band of ringers is available and change-ringing is practised the bells as a rule are rung. The practice of “clocking” a bell, in which the clapper, by means of a cord attached to it and pulled from below, is allowed to swing against the bell at rest, is often employed to save trouble; but the jar is very likely to crack the bell. In ringing, or in true chiming, the bell is in motion when struck.

For ringing, a bell is pulled up and “set” mouth uppermost. She (to ringers a bell is feminine) is then pulled off, first at “handstroke” (i.e. with the hands on the “sally” or tufted portion of the rope, a few feet from its lower end) and then at “back-stroke” in the reverse direction (with the hands nearer the lower end, the rope having at the previous pull coiled round three-quarters of the wheel’s circumference), describing at each pull almost a full circle till she comes back to the upright position. At each revolution the swing is chiefly done by the weight of the bell, the ringer giving a pull of just sufficient strength to bring the bell back into the upright position; otherwise its swing would become gradually shorter till it remained at rest mouth downwards.

Change-ringing.—When a given number of bells are rung over and over again in the same order, from the highest note, or “treble,” to the lowest, or “tenor”—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7—they are said to be rung in “rounds.” “Changes” are variations of this order—e.g. 2 1 3 5 4 7 6, 2 3 1 4 5 6 7; and “change-ringing” is the art of ringing bells in “changes,” so that a different “change” or rearrangement of order is produced at each pull of the bell-ropes, until, without any repetition of the same change, the bells come back into “rounds.” The general principle of all methods of change-ringing is that each bell, after striking in the first place or “lead,” works gradually “up” to the last place or “behind,” and “down” again to the first, and that no bell ever shifts more than one place in each change. Thus the ringer of any bell knows that whatever his position in one change, his place in the next will be either the same, or the place before or the place after. He does not have to learn by heart the different changes or variations of order; nor need he, unless he is the “conductor,” know the exact order of any one change. He has to bear in mind, first, which way his bell is working, viz. whether “up” from first to last place, or “down” from last to first; secondly, in what place his bell is striking; thirdly, what bell or bells are striking immediately before or after him—this being ascertained chiefly by “rope-sight,” i.e. the knack, acquired by practice, of seeing which rope is being pulled immediately before and after his own. He must also remember and apply the rules of the particular “method” which is being rung. The following table representing the first twenty changes of a “plain course” of “Grandsire Triples” (for these terms, see below) illustrates the subject-matter of this section:—

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 “Rounds.”
2 1 3 5 4 7 6 (1st change.)
2 3 1 4 5 6 7
3 2 4 1 6 5 7
3 4 2 6 1 7 5
4 3 6 2 7 1 5 (5th change.)
4 6 3 7 2 5 1
6 4 7 3 5 2 1
6 7 4 5 3 1 2
7 6 5 4 1 3 2

7 5 6 1 4 2 3 (10th change.)
5 7 1 6 2 4 3
5 1 7 2 6 3 4
1 5 2 7 3 6 4
1 2 5 3 7 4 6
2 1 5 7 3 6 4 (15th change.)
2 5 1 3 7 4 6
5 2 3 1 4 7 6
5 3 2 4 1 6 7
3 5 4 2 6 1 7
3 4 5 6 2 7 1 (20th change.)

It will be observed that at the 1st change the third bell and at the 15th the fifth bell, according to the rule of this “method,” strikes a second blow in the third place (“makes third’s place”). This stops the regular work of the bells which at the previous change were in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th places (“in 4, 5, 6, 7”), causing them to take a step backwards in their course “up” or “down,” or as it is technically called, to “dodge.” Were it not for this, the bells would come back into “rounds” at the 14th change. It is by the use of “place-making” and “dodging,” according to the rules of various “methods,” that the required number of changes, upon any number of bells, can be produced. But in order that this may be done, without the bells coming back into “rounds” (as, e.g. in the “plain course” of Grandsire Triples, above given, they will do in seventy changes), further modifications of the “coursing order,” called technically “Bobs” and “Singles,” must be introduced. In ringing, notice of these alterations as they occur is given by one of the ringers, who acts as “conductor,” calling out “Bob” or “Single” at the right moment to warn the ringers of certain bells to make the requisite alteration in the regular work of their bells. (Hence, in ringing language, to “call” a peal or touch=to conduct it.) Particulars of these, as of other details of change-ringing, may be gathered from books dealing with the technique of the art; but they are best mastered in actual practice. The term “single,” applied to five-bell ringing meant that, as the first three bells remained unchanged, only a single pair of bells changed places, e.g. 1 5 4 3 2, 1 5 4 2 3. On larger numbers of bells it loses this meaning; but the effect of this “call” is that the “coursing order” of a single pair of bells is inverted. The origin of “Bob” is unknown. As a “call” it was perhaps adopted as a short, sharp sound, easily uttered and easily heard by the ringers. As applied to a “method” or system of ringing it may refer to the evolution of “dodging,” e.g. in “Treble Bob” to the zigzag “dodging” path of the treble bell; but none of the old writers attempts to explain it.

The number of possible “changes” on any given series of bells may be ascertained, according to the mathematical formula of “permutations,” by multiplying the number of the bells together. Thus on three bells, only 6 changes or variations of order (1✕2✕3) can be produced; on four bells, 1✕2✕3✕4=24; on five, 24✕5=120; on six, 120✕6=720; on seven, 720✕7=5040. A “peal” on any such number of bells is in ordinary language the ringing of all the possible changes. But technically, only the full extent of changes upon seven bells, usually rung with a “tenor behind,” is called a “peal”; a shorter performance upon seven or more bells, or the full extent upon less than seven, being, in ringing parlance, a “touch.” On six bells the full extent of changes must be repeated continuously seven times (720✕7=5040), and on five bells forty-two times (l20✕42=5040) to rank as a “peal.” On eight or more bells 5000 changes in round numbers is accepted as the minimum standard for a peal; and on such numbers of bells up to twelve (the largest number used in change-ringing), peals are so arranged that the bells come into rounds at, or at some point beyond, 5000 changes. As many as 16,000 changes, occupying from nine to ten hours, have been rung upon church bells. But the great physical strain upon the ringers—to say nothing of the effect upon those who are within hearing—makes such performances exceptional. The word “peal” is often, though incorrectly, used (1) for a set of church bells (“a peal of six,” “a peal of eight”), for which the correct term is “a ring” of bells; (2) for any shorter performance than a full peal (e.g. “wedding-peal,” “muffled peal,” &c.), called in ringing language a “touch.” Its use as equivalent for “method,” found in old campanological works, is now obsolete.

Change-ringing upon five bells is called “Doubles,” upon seven bells “Triples,” upon nine “Caters” (Fr. quatre), and upon eleven “Cinques,” from the fact that at each change two, three, four or five pairs of bells change places with each other. “Doubles” can be and are rung when there are only five bells; but as a rule these “odd-bell” systems are rung with a “tenor behind,” i.e. struck at the end of each change; the number of bells in a tower being usually an even number—six, eight, ten or twelve. In “even-bell” systems the tenor is “rung in” or “turned in,” i.e. changes with the other bells, and a different terminology is employed; change-ringing on six bells being called “Minor”; on eight bells, “Major”; on ten bells, “Royal”; and on twelve, “Maximus.” The principal “methods” of change-ringing, each of which has its special rules, are—(1) “Grandsire”; (2) “Plain Bob”; (3) “Treble Bob”; (4) “Stedman,” from the name of its inventor, Fabian Stedman, about 1670. In “Grandsire” the treble and one other bell, in “Plain Bob” the treble alone, has a “plain hunt,” i.e. works from the first place, or “lead,” to the last place, or “behind,” and back again, without any dodging; in “Treble Bob” the treble has a uniform but zigzag course, dodging in each place on its way up and down. This is called a “Treble Bob hunt”; and under these two heads, according to the work of the treble, are classified a variety of “plain methods” and “Treble Bob methods,” among the latter being the so-called “Surprise” methods, the most complicated and difficult of all. “Stedman’s principle,” which is sui generis, consists in the three front bells ringing their six possible changes, while the remaining pair or pairs of bells dodge. It is thus an “odd-bell” method adapted to five, seven, nine or eleven bells; as also is “Grandsire,” though occasionally rung on even numbers of bells. “Treble Bob” is always, and “Plain Bob” generally, rung on even numbers—six, eight, ten or twelve. In ringing, whenever the treble has a uniform course, unaffected by “Bobs” or “Singles,” it serves as a guide to the other changing bells, according to the place in which they meet and cross its path from “behind” to the “lead.” The order in which the different dodges occur, and the “course bell,” i.e. the bell which he follows from behind to lead, are also useful, and on large numbers of bells indispensable, guides to the ringer.

Quite distinct from the art of change-ringing is the science of “composing,” i.e. arranging and uniting by the proper “calls,” subject to certain fixed laws and conditions, a number of groups of changes, so that no one change, or series of changes represented in those groups, shall be repeated. A composition, long or short, is said to be “true” if it is free from, “false” if it involves, such repetition; and the body of ascertained laws and conditions governing true composition in any method constitutes the test or “proof” to be applied to a composition in that method to demonstrate its truth or falseness. Many practical ringers know little or nothing of the principles of composition, and are content with performing compositions received from composers, or published in ringing books and periodicals. An elaborate statement of the principles of composition in the “Grandsire” method may be found in an appendix to Snowdon’s Grandsire (1888), by the Rev. C. D. P. Davies. Those which apply to “Treble Bob” are explained in Snowdon’s Treatise on Treble Bob, Part I. But, so far as can be ascertained, there is no treatise dealing with the science of composition as a whole; nor is it possible here to attempt a popular exposition of its principles.

One of the objects kept in view by composers is musical effect. Certain sequences or contrasts of notes strike the ear as more musical than others; and an arrangement which brings up the more musical changes in quicker succession improves the musical effect of the “peal” or “touch.” On seven bells all the possible changes must be inserted in a true peal; but on larger numbers of bells, where the choice is from an immense number of possible changes, the composer is free to select those which are most musical. Unless, however, the bells of any given “ring” are in perfect tune and harmony with each other, their musical effect must be impaired, however well they are rung. This gives importance to the science and art of bell-tuning, in which great progress has been made (see above).

The art of scientific change-ringing, peculiar to England, does not seem to have been evolved before the middle of the 17th century. Societies or gilds of ringers, however, existed much earlier. A patent roll of 39 Henry III. (1255) confirms the “Brethren of the Guild of Westminster, who are appointed to ring the great bells there,” in the enjoyment of the “privileges and free customs which they have enjoyed from the time of Edward the Confessor.” In 1602 (as appears from a MS. in the library of All Souls’ College, Oxford) was founded a society called the “Scholars of Cheapside.” In 1637 began the “Ancient Society of College Youths,” so called from their meeting to practise on the six bells at St Martin’s, College Hill, a church destroyed in the Great Fire of London, 1666. At first only “rounds” and “call-changes” were rung, till about 1642, when 120 “Bob Doubles” were achieved; but slow progress was made till 1677, when Fabian Stedman of Cambridge published his Campanologia, dedicating it to this society, his method being first rung about this time by some of its members. Before the end of the 17th century was founded the “Society of London Scholars,” the name of which was changed in 1746 to “Cumberland Youths” in compliment to the victor of Culloden. These two metropolitan societies still exist, and include in their membership most of the leading change-ringers of England: one of the oldest provincial societies being that of Saffron Walden in Essex, founded in 1623, and still holding an annual ringing festival. In the latter half of the 18th and first half of the 19th century change-ringing, which at first seems to have been an aristocratic pastime, degenerated in social repute. Church bells and their ringers, neglected by church authorities, became associated with the lower and least reputable phases of parochial life; and belfries were too often an adjunct to the pothouse. In the last half of the 19th century there was a great revival of change-ringing, leading to improvements in belfries and in ringers, and to their gradual recognition as church workers. Diocesan or county associations for the promotion of change-ringing and of belfry reform spread knowledge of the art and aroused church officials to greater interest in and care for their bells. A Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, consisting of delegates from these various societies, meets annually in London or at some provincial centre to discuss ringing matters, and to collect and formulate useful knowledge upon practical questions—e.g. the proper care of bells and the means of preventing annoyance from their use in the neighbourhood of houses, rules for the conduct of belfries, &c. It is now less likely than ever that the Belgian carillons will be preferred in England to the peculiarly English system of ringing bells in peal; by which, whatever its difficulties, the musical sound of bells is most fully brought out, and their scientific construction best stimulated.

Authorities.—The literature of bell-lore (or campanology) consists chiefly of scattered treatises or pamphlets upon the technique of different methods of change-ringing, or upon the bells of particular counties or districts. The earliest that deal with the science and art of change-ringing are Campanologia or the Art of Ringing Improved (1677), and a chapter of “Advice to a Ringer” in the School of Recreations, or Gentleman’s Tutor (1684), showing that in its early days bell-ringing was a fashionable pastime. Then follow Campanologia, or the Art of Ringing made Easy (1766), Clavis Campanologia, a Key to Ringing (1788), and Shipway’s Campanologia (1816). The revival of change-ringing in recent years has produced many manuals: e.g. Snowdon’s Rope-Sight (explaining the “Plain Bob” method), Grandsire, Treatise on Treble Bob, Double Norwich Court Bob Major, and Standard Methods (with a book of diagrams); Troyte on Change-Ringing; The Duffield Method, by Sir A. P. Heywood, Bart., its inventor. Somewhat prior to these are various works by the Rev. H. T. Ellacombe, inventor of a chiming apparatus which bears his name, and a pioneer in belfry reform. Among these are accounts of the church bells of Devon, Somerset and Gloucester, and pamphlets on Belfries and Ringers, Chiming, &c.; much of their contents being summarized in The Ringer’s Guide to the Church Bells of Devon, by C. Pearson (1888). A Glossary of Technical Terms used in connexion with church bells and change-ringing was published (1901) under the auspices of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. On the history of church bells and customs connected with them much curious information is given in North’s English Bells and Bell Lore (1888). By the same author are monographs on the church bells of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire. There are similar works on the church bells of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, by Dr Raven; of Huntingdonshire, by the Rev. T. M. N. Owen; and on the church bells of Essex, by the Rev. C. Deedes. A compilation and summary of many data of bell-lore will be found in A Book about Bells, by the Rev. G. S. Tyack; and in a volume by Dr Raven in the “Antiquary’s Books” series (Methuen, 1906), entitled The Bells of England, which deals with the antiquarian side of bell-lore. See also Quarterly Review, No. cxc. (September 1854); Windsor Magazine (December 1896); Lord Rayleigh’s paper “On the Tones of Bells” in the Phil. Mag. for January 1890; and a series of articles from the Guardian, reprinted as a pamphlet under the title, Church Bells and Bell-ringing.  (T. L. P.) 

House Bells.—Buildings are commonly provided with bells, conveniently arranged so as to enable attendants to be summoned to the different rooms. In the old system, which has been largely superseded by pneumatic and still more by electric bells, the bells themselves are of the ordinary conical shape and are provided with clappers hung loosely inside them. Being supported on springs they continue to swing, and therefore to give out sound as the clapper knocks against the sides, for some time after they have been set in motion by means of the strings or wires by which each is connected to a bell-pull in the rooms. These wires are generally placed out of sight inside the walls, and bell-cranks are employed to take them round corners and to change the direction of motion as required. A lightly poised pendulum is often attached to each bell, to show by its motion when it has been rung. In pneumatic bells the wires are replaced by pipes of narrow bore, and the current of air which is caused to flow along these by the pressing of a push-button actuates a small hammer which impinges rapidly against a bell or gong. An electric bell consists of a small electro-magnet acting on a soft iron armature which is supported in such a way that normally it stands away from the magnet. When the latter is energized by the passage of an electric current, the armature is attracted towards it, and a small hammer attached to it strikes a blow on the bell or gong. This “single stroke” type of bell is largely used in railway signalling instruments. For domestic purposes, however, the bells are arranged so that the hammer strikes a series of strokes, continuing so long as the push-button which closes the electric circuit is pressed. A light spring is provided against which the armature rests when it is not attracted by the electro-magnet, and the current is arranged to pass through this spring and the armature on its way to the magnet. When the armature is attracted by the magnet it breaks contact with this spring, the current is interrupted, and the magnet being no longer energized allows the armature to fall back on the spring and thus restore the circuit. In this way a rapid to and fro motion is imparted to the hammer. The electric current is supplied by a battery, usually either of Leclanché or of dry cells. One bell will serve for all the rooms of a house, an “indicator” being provided to show from which it has been rung. Such indicators are of two main types: the current either sets in motion a pendulum, or causes a disk bearing the name or number of the room concerned to come into view. Each push must have one wire appropriated to itself leading from the battery through the indicator to the bell, but the return wire from the bell to the battery may be common to all the pushes. Bells of this kind cease to ring whenever the electrical continuity of any of these wires is interrupted, but in some cases, as in connexion with burglar-alarms, it is desirable that the bell, once set in action, shall continue to ring even though the wires are cut. For this purpose, in “continuous ringing” bells, the current, started by the push or alarm apparatus, instead of working the bell, is made to operate a relay-switch and thus to bring into circuit a second battery which continues to ring the bell, no matter what happens to the first circuit.  (H. M. R.)