Scope and Background
This Great Rings Dove Events Dataset shows specific events throughout the history of each tower that has had a ring with a Tenor of 20 cwt or greater. It shows the number of bells in a ring and the date cast, founder and weight of the ring’s Tenor at each event’s date. It has been designed to be able to reflect how Dove would have looked in any given year i.e. the number in the ring and the weight of the Tenor. Semitones and additional bells are not mentioned in any way as only the number in the diatonic ring is shown (and excludes Extra Trebles).
An event is defined as follows:
Where the number of bells in the ring changed or the weight, date or founder of the Tenor altered.
These are the only events included. If it is known that an event occurred through a Tenor's existence such as Retuning / Restoring or Canons removal, a separate event has been included to reflect its weight at that time.
This data does not show any events that are particular to individual bells apart from the Tenor of the ring, or where general rehanging / restoration occurred that did not alter either the number within the ring or the Tenor’s weight at that time. Where an Event is shown that does meet the above criteria and further work was also carried out, this is shown (e.g. 4, 6 & 8/8 recast and all rehung).
A comprehensive check has been carried out to ascertain any ring where the Tenor has ever been >=20 cwt. Not included are rings where the Tenor has ever been reputed to be >=20 cwt but subsequently discovered not to have been and so some rings expected to be in the dataset are not.
There have been presumptions made (but checked as best can) within some rings where it was known how many bells where in the ring earlier than the first known Tenor date and / or founder. These Events have been included to reflect the evolution of the ring at that Tower.
For those rings that were known to have been destroyed / severely damaged due to fire or WW2 enemy action it is reflected that there was not a ring during the years before their replacement (where applicable). Although this may be controversial, it was required to adopt this approach for the Snapshot by Year elements. Where it has been known Towers have been unringable for a long period of time, these are still included as (i) the bells were / are still in situ and (ii) there is just not accurate information to reflect what years their unringable state may apply from / to.
With regards Founders, it is shown where known which generation of founder was responsible and a generic TAYLOR has been used for all bells cast at Loughborough or by the Taylor family previously.
Having been interested in bell details and history for 40 years I was fortunate in that I started this project with a mountain of data of my own gleaned from Tower Notices and publications such as Church Bells (CB), Bell News (BN), Ringing Worlds (RW) and most of the county books. Using this original knowledge, I decided in 2003-05 to attempt to gather the data within this scope but it became apparent that there just was not sufficient data accessible at that point to make it accurate. Fast forward 15 years and with the Covid lockdown I found that the time was right to complete this in 2020 for a number of reasons:
George Massey’s Church Bells of Somerset was published in 2011 and without this there would be far less detail available on the Somerset rings which make up just under 10% of the total number of events in the dataset due to the county’s number of heavy rings
The population of the Dove online pNBR data was nearly complete for Towers in the scope of this project (especially Canons information)
CB and BN are now all accessible online
The wealth of information that is available now from Taylor’s and Whitechapel archives
Some of the County Books I had not seen over the years are shared online by the Whiting Society
With this tremendous resource available I used the following approach:
I searched Dove online a county at a time for any Tower where the Tenor was 17 cwt or over
I researched each one from scratch to establish whether they fitted into the scope of this project and for those that did checked the known “facts” that had been around for years. This included cross referencing with my records, Chris Pickford’s Great Bells list v12 2018 into v13 2020 (the 2003 version of which was the original inspiration) and each County Book or published work that I could. As I researched a tower, I used the BN and RW indexes to establish missing events and check those known.
Once all the above was done and I had my baseline of Towers, I then went through every page of CB, BN and RW up to and including 2019. In between the Fire and Brimstone of CB and adverts for Dentistry and Chicken Wiring in the BN, I managed to double check and establish some missing data for the 671 towers within scope.
MASp A presumption has been made by me
BN Bell News
CB Church Bells
RW The Ringing World
I have used the phrase recast throughout this data but obviously it cannot be ascertained for each individual bell whether they were actually recast or replaced without checking foundry records for each. Where known to have been retained, I have stated as replaced.
A bell has always had a tangible weight regardless as to what stage of its life it’s at and regardless of whether or not it has ever been recorded – it’s always had to weigh something. When and how the most accurate weight has been derived for each individual bell is one that will probably always be open to question, as even official weights from founders seem to be revised and sometimes then still shown to be inaccurate. As for estimated weights, these have proven time and again to be pure fiction. One of the best ways of summarising the frustrations around this subject was beautifully articulated by an unknown writer (assumed to be the then Editor) in the RW of 31 January 1941 (41/58) as follows:
The weights of tenors – How bells ‘grow’
The letters between Thomas Mears and the churchwardens of St. Peter Mancroft raised a question which has always interested ringers, for there are very few of them who have not at one time or another been engaged in an argument about the correct weight of a tenor.
We are all familiar with village steeples, where the bells have not been weighed for centuries, and where the tenor has a reputed and traditional weight, usually at least half as much as the correct one. That sort of thing is natural and understandable. The local sexton is proud of his bells and likes to think they are better and heavier than those in a neighbouring and rival village. The local ringers are sure the bell must be at least a ton—‘You can tell that by the way she goes.’ The visitor to the Curfew Tower at Windsor Castle is usually told by the custodian that the tenor weighs two tons, and any doubts on the point are treated with scorn. Actually she weighs, we believe, a little less than 30 cwt.
But sextons and village ringers are not the only people who are prone to exaggerate in this way. Even the most modest of ringers, after he has rung to a peal a tenor of which the definite weight is not known, is inclined to give himself the benefit of the doubt, and to think that if there must be a margin of error it had better be on the large side. Then perhaps someone, who thinks he knows all about it, writes to contradict him.
When the long peal of Kent Treble Bob, 16,608 changes, was rung at Mottram in 1883, the tenor was given as 14 cwt., the same weight as that at Bethnal Green, where the previous longest peal had been rung, but the partisans of the London band were very anxious to show that the Mottram tenor was really no more than 12 cwt.
The weights of several heavy and famous bells have been at times disputed. The old tenor at St. Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol, was always given as 50 cwt., and on the strength of that some fine heavy bell feats were claimed. When she was weighed before being recast, she proved to be less than two tons. This exaggeration did in one instance lead to a misunderstanding. The local men rang a peal of Cinques in about three and a half hours’ time, and when they published the record, some person wrote to ‘The Bell News’ and declared the peal was false. His only reason for saying so was that no man could have rung a bell of that weight to a peal in the time.
An Oxford controversy
The tenor at Christ Church, Oxford was always said to be 40 cwt., and when Washbrook, then a young man, rang it to a peal on the back eight, it was claimed as an outstanding heavy bell performance, as no doubt it was. The weight was challenged, but the Oxford men stuck to their opinion and the controversy lasted for some years. At length F. E. Robinson had the bell weighed, when it turned out to be a little over 30 cwt.
We are not quite clear about the details of this, and do not know how it was managed, or how the net weight of the bell, apart from the stock and clapper, was arrived at. Perhaps some of our Oxford friends may be able to enlighten us.
In the case of many of the best known rings, lists of weights supplied by the founders exist, and it is common enough to find them framed and hung up in belfries. These weights are generally taken to be authoritative and final, and, with modern rings, so they are.
But it is remarkable how many of the older founders’ weights have proved inaccurate when the bells have been weighed in recent years. Mancroft tenor is a case in point. Thomas Mears said the bell weighed 43 cwt. 1 qr. 18 lb., and that, of course, was what he was paid for; but when she was weighed at Loughborough she only scaled 40 cwt. 2 qr. 21 lb.
Southwark old tenor, which in Knights’ list was over 50 cwt., turned out to be something over 49 cwt. And there are other instances.
What is the reason? We have heard it said that the old founders used to weigh the clappers with the bells, but we hardly think that is likely. The churchwardens in olden times were very businesslike people and would not have been taken in by such a dodge. We must remember that it was usual to pay for bells on the actual weight of metal supplied, not, as at present, a lump sum which the founder quotes to cover everything. Now the parish accepts the bells without questioning the weights. In olden times bells were always carefully weighed before they were handed over to the founder to be recast, a bond was taken from him to cover the churchwardens against any fraud on his part, and the bells were weighed before they were accepted.
This weighing had to be done at public weigh bridges, which were to be found in all large towns and in most market towns. There could, therefore, be no dispute as to what should be taken as the correct weight for which the parish had to pay. Nevertheless, it seems certain that the weights often were wrong. Very likely the weigh bridges were not accurate, or has the standard ton slightly altered in the course of years?
From the beginning of this project it was obvious that a weight in its own right needs to be tracked and so I have shown the stage and source of the weight and the year it was weighed / derived (where possible) which in most instances by default indicates where the weight was sourced from.
I have chosen to use the most recent (and arguably most accurate) weight of the Tenor known in the period of an event from foundry records where possible. This means that the event when a bell was supplied may display the Arrival or Scrapping weight that was ascertained several decades (or in some cases, centuries) later if the bell had remained unaltered. It could be argued that as bells accumulate dirt etc this may skew this approach, but this still seems the most accurate way of depicting the bell’s actual weight at any point.
Weight abbreviations used throughout the dataset are:
Arr Arrival weight prior to restoration
Cas Cast weight (shown for interest in the Notes)
Con Contemporary weight where reflected by
some source during the period of that Event
Der Derived weight
Est Estimated weight, mostly carried out by me
Res Restored weight post restoration having
been carried out
Scr Scrapping weight (shown Nett and / or Gross
Sup Supplied weight
Unk Where a weight has been frequently quoted
but the originating source is not verified or
Wit Weighed In Tower
Where mentioned in the Notes field the above abbreviations are suffixed with the letter “w”.
For the purposes of my own weight estimations throughout this project I have used data comparisons of known bells by founder where possible. With regards canons, I have taken into account roughly how big any canons were likely to have been if removed (e.g. Doncaster, Button top or standard). Where have been removed, I have used a sliding scale based on the size of the bell in question. Any bells between 20 to 25 cwt I have worked on using +/- ½ cwt pre or post canons removal. Likewise I have used +/- 1 cwt for bells between 25 to 35 cwt, 1½ cwt for bells between 35 and 40 cwt and for those few over 40 cwt I have used +/- 2 cwt.
All sources used to glean an Event’s data are shown by each event. County Books and existing known bodies of work are shown by their author and not listed in detail as I assumed that anyone reading this will know the work in question. As stated, the inspiration for this database is the Great Bells List by Chris Pickford (currently up to Version 13) which I started this work from in 2003 and where CJP is shown, most often this is the originating source. I have not recorded every instance of the same data being repeated through CB, BN and RWs through the ages and have not recorded many instances of London rings’ data as Chris Pickford kindly shared with me his notes on Inside the M25 rings which had already pulled together the data from every source, including the “Holy Grail” of founder’s records which in some cases eclipses the published data anyway.
Photos have been used where there is no obvious copyright, and as there is no intention of monetary gain through this site as is purely of historical interest to Bell Historians, I have used some items from the internet. Huge thanks to John Taylor & Co Ltd for permission to use all Taylor pictures (shown with JT in the picture name) and also Dickon Love (shown as DrL), Stuart Hutchieson (SCWH) and Nick Bowden (NWB).
Corrections and Amendments
Like all datasets of this nature, there will always be (i) incomplete and inaccurate data and (ii) the inevitable typos which are purely down to me. Version 2.0 of this data was published in Excel and Word format hosted by David Kelly on the Keltek website in October 2020 - this current website represents that original data with corrections and amendments up to October 2021.
Any queries, additions, corrections and amendments please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am very keen to establish more history for the Towers within scope and of course any rings that I have inadvertently missed.
All data is down to my interpretation based on the facts available to me, and any errors are mine.
Thanks to anyone who has been a source of information over the years and special thanks need to be extended to John Baldwin, Andrew Bull (AMB), Alan Buswell (AJB), Revd David Cawley (DLC), Matthew Higby (MRTH), Stuart Hutchieson (SCWH) and Nigel Taylor (NT). Thanks to Tim Jackson and Nick Bowden for interest and also thanks to David Kelly for hosting v2.0 on the Keltek Trust website and now the raw data for v3.0 should anyone wish to download it.
Especial thanks to both George Dawson (GAD) for accessing Taylor records and Chris Pickford (CJP) for sharing his legendary knowledge - without both George and Chris this project would be far less accurate and complete.
Martin A Smith