A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Chimes

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CHIMES. Certain beats on one or more bells used to give notice of the commencement of religious services or of the time of day. It is not difficult to trace the origin of chimes in our own land, or in other European Christian countries, whether applied to sacred or secular purposes.

The famous manuscript of St. Blaise, said to be of the 9th century, shows that there was an attempt made in early times to produce a set of chimes with small suspended bells which were tapped with a hammer or wooden mallet by a cleric or lay performer. The later illustrations from the illuminated manuscript of the Benedictional of S. Æthelwold, which was executed at Hyde Abbey about the year 980, would show that chime bells in early times were mounted in campaniles without the appendages for ringing or swinging according with the present custom.

There are examples of the introduction of the half swinging chimes in the 15th century which have been carefully recorded, and which show a more convenient arrangement in 'the dead rope pull' than the earlier arrangements of levers; and also of 'full pull swing' or ringing the bells mouth upwards, in distinction to chiming them, where if swung at all half the distance is sufficient. In most cases, however, for the purposes of chiming, the bells hang dead and are struck with the clapper or with an outside or distinct hammer, or are only swung a short distance on centres, which facilitates the work on large or Bourdon bells. As soon as S. Paulinus had determined to erect the new churches in Northumbria, and as soon as S. Dunstan had with his usual energy devoted himself to the elevation of the Christian Church among the Saxons, an impetus was given to chime ringing, in the one case by the importation and in the other by the manufacture at home of the necessary bells for chiming and of the wooden structures with which they were associated and which would not have carried large sets of chimes. This system of application has been repeated down to modern times in the large stone fabrics, and is employed in the cases of the famous christened bells, such as Tom of Oxford, Tom of Lincoln, Big Ben, and Great Paul.

In King's 'Rites and Ceremonies of the Greek Church in Russia,' it has been said that 'Bells are now always used in Russia, and the chiming them is looked upon as essential to the service, the length of the time signifies to the public the degree of sanctity in the day; every church, therefore, is furnished with them, they are fastened immovably to the beam that supports them, and are rung by a rope tied to the clapper, which is perhaps a mark of their antiquity in that country, our method of ringing being more artificial.'

It is interesting to note the weight of metal and the dimensions of prominent bells in our own and other countries. The following list, for the most part taken from Denison's 'Clocks,' etc., will show the leading particulars of some of the most celebrated:—

Great Bells of Date Diameter at mouth. Weight
Ft. In. Ts. Cw.
Moscow . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1733 21 6 193 0
St. Paul's London, 'Great Paul' . 1882 9 6 16 14
Munich . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1493 7 3 6 5
Danzig . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1453 . . 6 1
Cologne . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1449 . . 6 0
Ratisbon 1325 . . 5 16
Magdeburg 1690 6 2 5 15
Leipzig 1634 . . 5 14
Breslau 1721 . . 5 13
Brunn 1515 . . 5 10
Ghent . . . . 5 10
Rodiz 1841 . . 5 10
Châlons . . . . 5 9
Lincoln 1835 6 10½ 5 8
Mariazell 1810 . . 5 5
St, Paul's, London, old bell 1716 6 9½ 5 4
Dresden 1787 . . 5 2
Rouen . . 6 4½ 5 9
Exeter, 'Peter' 1675 6 4 5 0
Frankfort 1371 6 4 5 0
Old Lincoln 1610 6 3½ 4 18
Leeds Town Hall 1859 6 2 4 1
Valetto, Malta . . 6 1 . .
Amiens 1736 6 0 5 0
Boulogne . . . . 4 0
Westminster, fourth 1857 6 0 3 18
" third 1858 4 6 1 13½
" second 1857 4 0 1 6
" first 1857 3 9 1 1
Exeter tenor 1676 5 11½ 3 7
Hotel de Ville, Paris, clock bell . . . . 3 10
Canterbury 1762 5 9 3 10
Gloucester 15th cent. 5 8½ 3 5
Manchester Royal Exchange, tenor or hour bell . . 5 8½ 3 3
" fourth . . 4 0 1 3
" third . . 3 1 0 10½
" second . . 2 10 0 9
" first . . 2 8 0 8

Manchester Town Hall, 1877.

Tons. Cwt. Qts.
Hour bell 5 9 0
Twentieth 5 0 0
Nineteenth 3 11 0
Eighteenth 2 12 0
Seventeenth 2 3 0
Sixteenth 1 19 0
Fifteenth 1 11 0
Fourteenth 1 7 0
Thirteenth 1 3 0
Twelfth 1 1 0
Eleventh 17 0
Tenth 16 0
Ninth 14 0
Eighth 10 0
Seventh 9 3
Sixth 8 3
Fifth 8 2
Fourth 7 3
Third 7 2
Second 7 1
First 6 3

Bradford Town Hall.

Tons. Cwt. Qts.
Hour bell, Twelfth 4 7 0
Eleventh 2 19 0
Tenth 2 1 0
Ninth 1 13 0
Eighth 1 4 0
Seventh 18 3
Sixth 13 3
Fifth 12 2
Fourth 9 0
Third 8 2
Second 8 0
First 7 3

A manual chiming apparatus, as distinct from chime barrel machines, was introduced by the late Rev. H. T. Ellacombe at Bitton Church. His system has been somewhat modified and elaborated by Messrs. Warner, the well-known bell-founders of London, who have of late years erected many of these instruments in churches for chiming either tunes or changes on church bells.

An apparatus for chiming by pneumatics has been introduced by Mr. Lewis, the church organ builder, which has some advantages, as the simple touch on a keyboard produces the required sound, but on the other hand the complication of an organ bellows and valves to supply the compressed air required for working, has not commended it for general use. The simple rope-pull apparatus before referred to may in a minute be put into gear for chiming, or out of gear to admit of the bells being rung.

The proportions and shapes of bells used for chimes should be of a different character from ringing bells, to admit of tune and accord in more pleasant harmonics, a point which also has bearing upon the cup or hemispherical form of chimes which have of late years been adopted, a flattened form of hemisphere giving far better results than the more circular or cup outlines.

[ S. B. G. ]