Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rudhall, Abraham

RUDHALL, ABRAHAM the elder (1657–1736), born in 1657, was the first of a noted family of bell-founders established at Gloucester from 1684 until 1830, during which period they cast about 4,500 church bells (Ellacombe). Rudhall, who in some instances spelt his name Ridhall, revived the lapsed glories of Gloucester bell-founders of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Rudhall's earliest bell, still in use at Oddington, bore as a trade mark a bell following his initials; while in later castings the figure of a bell was traced between the A. and the R. He published in the ‘Postman’ of 8 Nov. 1709 a list of the bells and peals cast by him, beginning with a ring of ten bells at Warwick; he stated that he had made altogether eight or nine hundred bells, ‘to the satisfaction of them that understand musick and good bells.’ The boast was justifiable. Rudhall's bells were distinguished for their musical tone, brought to perfection, it is said, by his son Abraham the younger. Together they furnished ten bells for St. Bride's, Fleet Street, 1710 and 1718; eight for St. Dunstan's-in-the-East; three for St. Sepulchre's. In 1715 a large broadside was printed at Oxford by Leonard Lutfield, ‘A Catalogue of Bells … cast since 1684 by Abraham Rudhall … with names of Benefactors.’ Edward Southwell, son of Sir Robert Southwell [q. v.], notes in his manuscript diary in 1715; ‘Gloucester: at night, had Mr. Rudholl, the bell-founder. A foundation ringer is one that rings at sight; not many of them. He has prick'd a ream of changes, the bobs and common hunt. 7l. per cwt. his metal. Tin-glass necessary to make sharp trebles. He casts to half a note, which is mended by the hammer. He takes the notes of them all by a blow-pipe’ (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xi. 4). One of Rudhall's changes inspired ‘A meditation upon death, to the tune of the chimes at the cathedral in Gloucester, the music by Jefferies, organist … also the same tune set to the proper key of the bells by Mr. Abr. Rudhall’ (ib. 8th ser. iii. 134). In 1699 he was a member of the College Youths' Society of Bellringers at Bath. Rudhall died on 25 Jan. 1735–6, aged 78, and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral. He had married twice, if not three times. About 1712 his daughter Alice married William Hine [q. v.], organist of Gloucester Cathedral.

Abraham Rudhall, the younger (1680–1735), the eldest son, whose work is inseparable from that of his father, died 17 Dec. 1735, aged 55, and was buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, Gloucester. He left his ‘workhouses and appurtenances’ to his son, Abel Rudhall (1714–1760), who began in 1736 to cast bells under his own name; and published in 1751 a catalogue of his castings. Three of Abel's sons successively carried on the business, viz.: Thomas Rudhall (1740?–1783), who published a list of his bells in 1774; Charles Rudhall (1746–1815); and John Rudhall (1760–1835), the last bell-founder of the name. The Gloucester foundry was nominally closed in 1828, but bells bearing John Rudhall's name are found with later dates, up to his death in 1835.

[Hawkins's History, 2nd ed. pp. 616, 770; Grove's Dictionary, vol. iii. 200; Notes and Queries (as cited); Fosbrooke's (Bigland's) History of Gloucester, pp. 141, 159; Ellacombe's Church Bells of Gloucester, passim, with a list of the Rudhalls' bells; Records of Gloucester Cathedral, i. 127; Sussex Archæological Soc. xvi. 178; Register of Wills, P. C. C. Derby, fol. 41.]

L. M. M.