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