domingo, 14 de dezembro de 2008

The Sounds of Bells

I have got used to the constant sound of bells clanking, not so much melodically resounding with a pure note but the off beat and off pitch of the church bells, here in Ouro Preto, it reminds me of parts of Greece, some what Islamic in tone. The hammer never seems to make sweet contact with the bell and I now think that this is deliberate, I imagine that folks pay more attention to discord than they do to melody, so if you want to attract attention it is probably this method that is best. The bells are rung with what appears to be a lack of rythem or timing, or both and then a lack of expertise in calculaing the swing of the bell, I do not know and am going to try and discover the reasons. In the meantime I have let my thoughts draw me back to the memories of London and my time spent near Whitechapel and Lambeth, there in Whitechapel is the oldest British bell foundery and I have just lifted there blurred for you to read as well as another more modern foundery(Paccard founded in 1796).

An entry in the Guinness Book of Records lists the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as Britain's oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1570 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) and being in continuous business since that date. In 1970, therefore, the Foundry celebrated its quarter centenary.
It had for some time been thought that the company may in fact have a longer history, and shortly after this celebration of 400 years, a link was indeed established through the research of bell historian George Elphick back to one Master Founder Robert Chamberlain, thus tracing an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V, and 72 years before Columbus sailed for America). Biographies of some of our past founders can be found elsewhere on this site, as can a guide on How to Identify Old Tower Bells.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry's business has always been, and still concentrates solely on, the manufacture of bells and their associated fittings. The manufacture of large bells for change ringing peals in church towers, single tolling bells, carrillon bells, and their complete range of accesories such as framework, wheels, clappers and their assembly in Church towers accounts for approximately four-fifths of the company output. The other fifth of the business lies in the manufacture of handbells for tune and change ringing, and other small bells of many shapes and sizes.

Whitechapel's famous bells include the original Liberty Bell (1752), the Great Bell of Montreal and, probably best known of all, Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. Cast in 1858, this is the largest bell ever cast at Whitechapel, weighing 13½ tons. To this day, a cross-section of the bell surrounds the entrance door to the Foundry. Worldwide export began at an early date. A set of bells was sent to St.Petersburg, Russia in 1747 and the first transatlantic change ringing peal was sent to Christ Church, Philadelphia in 1754. The bells supplied to St.Michael's, Charleston, South Carolina in 1764 have possibly the most interesting story of any set of bells and may well be the most travelled bells in history ! In 1964, Whitechapel was proud to provide the change ringing peal of 10 bells in a radial frame for the new National Cathedral in Washington DC, and in 1997 we provided North America's first change ringing peal of 12 bells to Toronto Cathedral
The tradition of English handbell ringing in America was built on Whitechapel handbells (originally for change ringing) known to have been sent from Whitechapel was given to Miss Margaret H Nicholls (later Mrs Margaret Schurcliff) by Arthur Hughes, General Manager of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in 1902 after she had successfully rung two handbell peals on a trip to England from Boston. The later progression to tune ringing was followed by the the forming of the New England Guild of Handbell Ringers in 1937, and by the AGEHR (the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers) in 1954.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry's long history spans the reigns of twenty seven English monarchs, and among the royal visitors to the foundry were King George V and Queen Mary who came to witness the casting of two bells for Westminster Abbey. The Foundry buildings date from 1670, four years after the Great Fire of London, and presumably replaced earlier structures lost to that conflagration. Originally built as a coaching inn called the Artichoke, the lease of the buildings was acquired by Thomas Lester - then Master Founder at Whitechapel - to accomodate the need for extra workshops and space during a time of great expansion in the craft of bellfounding. The business moved there from the north side of Whitechapel Road, and has remained on the site ever since, withstanding the ravages of war and development.
The premises are now designated as Grade II listed buildings, and as such may not be altered in any way. Thus the frontage remains unchanged on a very busy East London road amongst many modern buildings. Over the years, the foundry has found itself in the midst of dramatic events, such as when Jack the Ripper was committing his grisly murders in 1888. Then there was World War II....
During the Blitz, in the Second World War, many surrounding buildings were hit and destroyed, including the Church of St. Mary, Whitechapel (the 'white chapel' which gave the area its name), just a few hundred feet from the Foundry. The ground where it stood is now the Altab Ali Park. During the war years, the Foundry ceased making bells, switching to manufacturing castings for the Ministry of War. In the aftermath of the war, the Foundry was very busy replacing peals lost to bombing raids and fires, including the bells of St. Mary le Bow and St. Clement Danes of 'Oranges and Lemons' nursery rhyme fame, in London.
Despite being such an old established company, modern improvements and innovations are always being made by Whitechapel, and these have included the design and building of radial frames for change ringing peals and new technologies in clapper and headstock design which give excellent mechanical properties to their church bells. England's heaviest change ringing bell - Liverpool Cathedral tenor, weighing over 4 tons - was cast by Whitechapel in 1939.
In 1991, the world's first peal of 16 change ringing bells was installed by Whitechapel at the Church of St.Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England. The traditions of craftsmanship and old skills working alongside modern technology today still produce bells which are renowned, at the "sign of the three bells" in London's East End . The foundery have tours and a shop.
Since 1796, the PACCARD bell founders are the cast bronze magicians…
Today, the PACCARD Bell Foundry is the world reference as far as church and carillon bells are concerned. Between Tradition and Modernity, 7 generations of bell casters succeeded one another, from father to son, to run the business. All things considered, these are more than 120 000 PACCARD bells giving rythm to cities and villages all around the World.
For over 200 years, generations of PACCARD bell founders have created a reputation as the world’s leading bell foundry for musically superior, high-quality bronze bells. Learn more about bells. Established in 1984, the PACCARD Museum showcases the craftsmanship of the PACCARD Bell Foundry and shares the history of the fine art of bell-making with visitors from throughout the world.The PACCARD Museum has something fun for everyone. Whether you are a visiting family, arranging a school trip, or planning a corporate event, the PACCARD Museum has tours that will educate, entertain, and entice you to learn more. Experience the mastery of generations of PACCARD bell founders, witness modern-day bell casting techniques, and glimpse the future through our changing exhibits of ARS SONORA® “tone art” that merges the art of bell-making with fine sculpture and design.The PACCARD Museum offers a wide range of exhibits, seminars, and educational opportunities, including guided tours of the museum and workshop, live bell-casting events, and customized tours.

John Taylor Bellfounders continues a line of bellfounding which has been unbroken since the middle of the 14th Century, when Johannes de Stafford was active only 10 miles from the site of the present foundry. Since 1784 the business has been in the hands of the Taylor family. In 1839 the business settled in Loughborough and is now proud to operate the largest bellfoundry in the world.John Taylor Bellfounders continues a line of bellfounding which has been unbroken since the middle of the 14th Century, when Johannes de Stafford was active only 10 miles from the site of the present foundry.
Since 1784 the business has been in the hands of the Taylor family. In 1839 the business settled in Loughborough and is now proud to operate the largest bellfoundry in the world.
The largest bell in Britain, "Great Paul", the massive Bourdon bell at St Paul's Cathedral in London, was cast in Loughborough in 1881, weight 17,002 kgs, 37,483 pounds. Centuries of experience, together with up to the minute advances in technology, has put Taylors at the forefront in the design and manufacture of bells, their fittings and frameworks for all methods of sounding bells.

Taylor carillons are among the finest in the world: the unique sound of our carillon bells is heard across the globe. We continue the tradition of designing, casting and building superb instruments of beautifully toned bells using the very best materials and techniques. In 2008 we installed a new Taylor carillon in York Minster, the first ever carillon in an English cathedral.
True craftsmanship, attention to detail and quality engineering mark all our carillons. Only Taylors Eayre and Smith have the experience in every aspect of the carillon installation to meet the demands of the carillonneur: superlative bells, clappers, modern transmissions and handcrafted carillon and practice baton keyboards.
Carillons consist of at least 23 bells, arranged chromatically, and may have as many as 77 bells. The heaviest bell, which is called the Bourdon, can range from 300 pounds to over 20 tonnes in weight. The manual action is very similar to that of a chime (described above) but is usually more refined and sophisticated. The playing of the carillon requires an experienced musician and quite often organists undertake to play the carillon.

Many historic Cathedrals and Parish Churches have highly regarded Taylor peals for example St Paul's Cathedral, London; York Minster; Exeter Cathedral; Beverley Minster; Chester Cathedral; Lincoln Cathedral; Trinity Church, New York and many others. The debate over the finest Taylor peal is continuous as there are over 600 complete Taylor peals to choose from!
A new Taylor bell is cast from a mould which is painstakingly hand-crafted in two parts - the core which gives the inner profile of the bell and the case which gives the outer profile of the bell. The bells can be beautifully decorated and carry a commemorative inscription to customers requirements. The decoration, inscription and founders mark are carefully impressed into the case thus producing the decoration on the outside surface of the bell. The core and case are then brought together, clamped and sealed to form the completed mould. The mould is placed in a sand pit and the molten metal poured into the mould. After a few days the casting is cool enough to be removed from the mould and is thoroughly wire brushed.
The bell is then tuning using Taylor’s five tone principle of bell tuning introduced in 1896. This produces the purity and sweetness of tone and allows the bell to sound with full and rich mellowness. This gives Taylor bells their special characteristic and sets them apart from all other cast bronze bells.

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