Thursday, November 02, 2006


Welcome to my world of bells. You can read this blog top down! My dates are not relevant. I insert new posts in the order I would like them to be seen. Sorry - it's the way I like to do things! Hope you enjoy what follows.............................................

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Introducing my collection

I have published this blog to share some of the fun I have had in building my bell collection. I have always had in mind the need to limit the numbers and size of bells to avoid turning my house into a museum. I have set limiting criteria. I have concentrated mainly on bronze bells with handles from famous foundries around the world past and present. But I also have bells which have had a variety of practical uses. I love excuses to visit a bell foundry or anyone with a bell on offer. I enjoy contact with sellers in other countries. I have read several books about bells and joined the American Bell Association and the Bell Collectors of the British Isles group. I keep the collection in my study, a room about 12ft x 10 ft, and have a few outside the house. The photos show a part of the room. The bells sit alongside other essentials in what is a well used practical room. As well as bells I enjoy music, opera, sport, the internet and photography. I hope my little stories will encourage others to share their passions whatever they might be.

Because I want to keep my collection together in my study, from time to time I sell bells to make room for a special addition. In this blog, I will put a note against any bells I have now sold. But I will keep the entry as a reminder and it may help someone to identify a bell.

About blogger

If you are not familiar with the blogger website here is a tip. Have a look at the 'About me' section top left and below it you will see:

'View my complete profile'

Click on that and scroll down to see links to all my blogs. These tell the full story behind some of my bell adventures.

But leave that 'till later. For now, read on........

Finding Bells

Bells are everywhere. Anyone could quickly assemble a huge collection. They come in all shapes and sizes and different materials. Apart from obvious sources like antique shops, charity shops, car boot and garage sales, you can buy new from suppliers and bell foundries. And then there is Ebay.They are in nearly every home, on display or in the attic. They can cost a few pence or a few thousand.
So a collector has to decide what type of bell to collect, how many and at what cost. I am determined not to let my bells overwhelm my home so I am keeping to numbers I can display in my study, a room 12ft x 10ft, or hang outside the house.
The bells I collect have not been easy to find. Really good quality bells from famous founders or with a story to tell only turn up occasionally.

I have obtained a few on Ebay, some in antique shops, some via friends and some direct from foundries. When you let it be known what you collect you will get the odd call from someone who has found one they know will interest you. Those able to attend meetings of the American Bell Association can attend one of their bell auctions. Living in England that's not an option for me. Perhaps that's as well!

While we all enjoy a discovery in a most unexpected place. I love to visit a bell foundry and buy a new bell direct from the maker. At least that way you know exactly what you are getting and can ensure future owners know the bell's history.

Above all, have fun looking. And buy because you enjoy it.

Bronze or bell metal

Most of my bells are made of bronze or bell metal. This is an alloy of copper and tin. I asked John Taylor Bell Foundry to define the distinction between bronze and bell metal. This was the reply:

Hi Peter

Bell metal is just one of many variants of bronze, we only call it that because we use it!
Handbells have less tin-20% or so and small carillon bells have more, up to 25%.

Hope this helps.

Andrew Higson

So there you have it!

And here are some of my bells

Here are photos of some of my bells together with a little information about each one. As I look at my bells I often recall with a smile the day I found or collected the bell. Like the day I travelled to Loughborough to pick up the Town Criers bell from John Taylors. On the way back, the train stopped and it was annoumced that the driver was too tired to continue. Stranded for nearly two hours it meant missed connections and a very late return home. But it was worth it.

I am always delighted to show my bells to anyone interested, so if you are likely to be in the Sway area of the New Forest you can email me at to arrange a visit.

Cornille Havard

My interest in bells took root in Villedieu les poels in Normandy many years ago. I visited the Cornille Havard Foundry and enjoyed a tour of the buildings. There were some magnificent huge church bells ready for delivery. I wondered where they would end up. Whose lives would they touch? How would the world change before the bells needed replacing? Thought of all the events at which those bells would be heard. Bells are like that. They stir the imagination. At the end of the visit I bought a 4 inch diameter handled bell as a memento. Last year I gave it to my daughter who lived in New York at the time. She's now moving to Dallas so the bell's off again. Meanwhile, another excuse to contact Cornille Havard! This bell is the result. It has a 6 inch diameter. When the bell arrived it had a rather small handle probably due to a misunderstanding. During a trip to Whitechapel Bell Foundry I saw a delightful handle and asked them to fit it to this bell. It is made from Wenge and has a deep rich brown colour with an attractive grain.

Brass school bell

This is the bell which really set me off on bell collecting. I saw it at a local auction. Knowing virtually nothing about bells I tried to find out something about bell valuation. In the 'phone directory I found a bell hanging business in Bridport, Dorset. They offered some advice and I bought the bell. Later I visited the company, Nicholson Engineering, and saw many old bells either ready for hanging or restoration. They introduced me to the world of Whitechapel and Taylor's Bell Foundries. I visited Whitechapel for a tour of the Foundry. I was hooked! The bell has a diameter of 8 inches. The novelty Swiss Cowbell hangs from a curtain pole. One must fit these things in where one can.

Lymington School bell

This was my greatest challenge. I tell the full story in another blog. Here is the link:

Richard Sizer Fire Bell

Just love engraved bells! This one was made by Richard Sizer Ltd. Hull. It is engraved boldly on the bell together with FIRE BELL. Unusually the handle bears a label with a logo for GTE 82-90 Seymour Place W! London. Richard Sizer began founding in 19 century but I know nothing else about them. Still searching. As for GTE. I'm still trying to track them down. The bell has a diameter of 6 inches.

Merryweather Fire Bell

This old bell came from a 1930s Merryweather fire engine. I bought it from an employee of Nicholson's in Bridport, Dorset. They made the bracket it hangs from. More excuses for days out. When I bought the bell it had been repolished and looked like new. It is made of bell metal and now has a delightful patina which now protects it from corrosion. Also in view is another fire bell and the door bell pull.

Airfield Fire Bell

The little red bell in the photos saw active service during World War Two at North Weald Airfield in Essex. It is 6 inches diameter and made of phosphorous bronze. The airfield photo comes from the museum website. The bell makes as much racket as its bigger neighbour.

My Doorbell

Well what else would you expect! First, I found the bell. Then I found a blacksmith in Yorkshire ( Nigel Tyas ) to make the fittings. Now on arrival at the front door you pull down the rod and the bell rings out just as it first did long ago.


A perfect example of a handled bell from the world's greatest bell foundry. Yes, I'm biased.

It is engraved:

Peter Hyde
New Forest

A gift to mark my 60th birthday. I love the idea of a named bell. Us bell enthusiasts should all have one. I want to add a suitable quotation. What would you have on your bell?
It stands 15 inches x 7 inches diameter.


And then it was Ruth's turn. So this time it's:

Ruth Hyde
New Forest

This is 6 inches diameter and, according to Steve at Whitechapel, has a more feminine shape!
After collecting the bell from the foundry we went to a ballet at the Royal Opera House. Another fine bell day.

Town Crier Bell

This is a special favourite. A gift from a friend. It is a very old heavy bell typical of those used by the the more flamboyant Town Crier. Standing 15 inches tall with a diameter of 7 inches it has an unusual wooden handle.

Kruszewski Brothers

This is a bell by the Kruszewski Brothers Bell Foundry in Poland. It is a bronze bell standing 11 inches high with a diameter of 6 inches. It bears the names Peter and Ruth and commemorates our 40th wedding anniversary. I tell the story of this bell in a separate blog.


This is another bronze bell which was made by the Obertino Foundry in France. I checked out their website and ordered it by email. Easy.


This is a bronze bell from the Berger Foundry in Switzerland. They have been around since the 17th century.

Sanctus gong

I found this on Ebay described as a table bell! Some table. Some bell!

It is a superb example of a sanctus gong and has a glorious ring when tapped by a wooden mallet. The seller could not tell me where it was used. This is a worrying issue. I know churches are reluctant to acknowledge selling these items but one is left feeling uneasy without knowing that there has been a legitimate sale. Still, I will enjoy it and it looks magnificent with my group of sanctus bells. It is 17 inches high and the gong has a diameter of 10 inches. The sound tells me it is bronze.

The Sacring

This Sacring or Sanctus bell (also known by several other names) was made for me by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. I tell the story of the day I collected this bell in a separate blog. This bell is quite magnificent and one of my special favourites. It is tuned in the chord of G and has 13 tiny clappers which produce an amazing tinkling harmonic sound which lingers as only bell metal can.

Sanctus Bell

Another example of a Sanctus bell. This is identical to a bell which hung for many years in my mother's hall. It turned up in an antique shop in The New Forest.

Henry Symondson

The Symondsons were another famous British Bell Founding family. Henry would have made this in London early 19th century. It was restored by Whitechapel. It bears the name B Jennings. Trevor Jennings is well known in bell ringing circles. He was the Curator of Taylors Museum and has written books about handbells and founding. I am still researching the possibility that B Jennings is an ancestor of Trevor's.

J Shaw & Son

I bought this old English handbell on Ebay from a seller in the USA. J Shaw & Son was a Musical Bell Founder in Bradford in Yorkshire, England. Lovely colour.

Jury Officer's Bell?

Now this is a teaser. This was sold as a Jury Officers bell. It is marked JO on the crown. The bell is made from gunmetal so it made a change from my usual bell metal or bronze. As for JO representing 'Jury Officer' - I doubt it. If anyone can shed any light on this I will be pleased to amend my listing.


This was the trademark used by James Barwell Ltd. on brass goods. Samuel Fiddian sold his business to James Barwell in 1840. He managed to keep his name going. This is not a very old bell but it is solid and durable. A typical school bell.

Warner's of London

This is a 19th century bell made by John Warner & Sons Spital Bell Foundry in London. 14.5" tall x 6.5" diameter. It carries 'CT Schools' engraving as well as WH and '13' A bell from my favourite Antique shop in Hungerford. I do enjoy my visits there. This has a particularly grand walnut handle.

William Haley

William Haley was born in 1857. After working for Warners for over 40 years he set up his own business in the 1920's.I came upon this example of his work on Ebay. It bears the WH makers mark. I was the only bidder! I thought I would leave this exactly as it was. It was certainly well used.

Walter Little, Rochester

As yet I know nothing of Walter apart from his probable connection with Rochester, Northumberland. The makers mark WH is perhaps William Hayley although the W is not like another Hayley bell I have.
This is a fine bronze bell 5 inches diameter. A leather thong is attached to the handle. Not something I have seen before. Perhaps for the bell to be hung out of reach or for convenience? I had a theory that it might have enabled it to hang from a Town Criers wrist while he held a parchment. But not known among my Crier contacts.

Schulmerich Musical Handbell

Whitechapel and Taylor's will claim to make the finest English musical handbells. After all, they have both been at it for 100s of years and they are in England. Now two American upstarts claim to be the best! Schulmerich began production of bells in 1935 and in 1962 started making English musical handbells. Having seen and heard bells from all four makers I think they are all great! Another import from the USA.

Malmark Musical Handbell

Malmark have been making handbells about as long as I've lived in the New Forest - about 30 years. Based in Plumsteadville, PA,USA they have rapidly become one of the world's premier makers of English handbells. A few emails and telephone calls and over it came. It was cheaper to buy direct from Malmark than from a UK agent.

Lowes Bells

Stuart Lowes used to work at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry before setting up his own small foundry in the North of England where he now produces hand made bronze bells and other small bronze gifts. Individual custom made orders are also undertaken. This little gem was one of a small number of bells made for York Minster. The diameter is just three inches. It has an oak handle and plinth.

Lowes entrance bell

A really delightful example of a bell now being shown on the Lowes website. It has an unusual bronze lanyard. I had the bell engraved with the makers name. I really do think every bell should have at least an identifiable maker's mark. The diameter is 5 inches.

Ohio Bicentennial Bell

The Verdin Company have been making cast bronze bells since 1842. This is a bell to mark the bicentennial of Ohio in 2003. It's quite at home here with it's New York neighbour and it's other American friends around the room.

New York

If I know little about a bell, and I have just a few of those, I name it after the place it came from. An unusual shape and colour this one. Obtained during one of my visits to my daughter, Sandra. It sits alongside a colleague from Ohio, so it's quite content.

Telephone Bells

A modest pair of ringers showing the versatility of bells. Note the doll's house collection supposed to be in Willow Cottage which resides in my wife Ruth's room. I don't think she's noticed.

Cow Doorbells

No one gets into my study unnoticed or without waking me up. I was in Wimborne one day and went to an Antique Shop closing down sale. A sad occasion. On entering, these little gems made a terrific din. 'Sorry they are not for sale' I was told. After hearing my life history and of my passion for bells I finally wore the owner down and left triumphant. They now hang on my study door and easily outperform any guard dog.

Cow Gong

This sat in my mother's hallway long before I ever thought about bell collecting. We used to use it as a dinner gong. She lived until she was 92. She would be tickled pink to think that this little piece from her home was on view to the world. She had a small shop, selling antiques and general second hand goods. This was probably one of the many things she found that ended up at home. Collecting, like anything else, is in the genes.


Now this makes me sad. I bought this from Canada. All I know is from the engraving:


Why do these leave their families? I think I might be sponsoring a bell refuge soon. At 9cm diameter this is just a modest little brass bell but with a tale to tell. But what was it?

Dorchester, Dorset

All I know about this little character is that it probably has one of the most beautiful tones of any in my collection. Just 10cm diameter, I found it in Dorchester. It didn't have any special claim to fame - but it sits proudly among it's more illustrious neighbours without a sign of embarrassment.

The Pompey Bell

I describe the story of this bell in a separate glog.

I just love this bell. And the reason for having it!

Here is a link to the blog:

Pompey Bell Blog

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Air Raid Precautions

This ARP bell was used during air raids in the second world war. Made by the James Barwell Foundry in Birmingham, this one had a special handle and was used by the Mayor of Plymouth. At least that was the story I was told by the seller in a little shop in Dorset. Well, it looks like the sort of bell a Mayor would use!

Type 16 Telephone

This old telephone has twin bells which ring on receipt of a call. It still rings in my lounge but I cannot make calls with it. Also known as the Skeleton 'phone, this was one of the first public telephones sold in the UK and dates around the 1890s.

Klaxon Horn

Now I know this is not a bell. But I'm in charge of this blog. So here is my one and only Klaxon. It did it's bit on an RAF fire engine during the second world war. It would easily outperform any bell. Hand operated, it scares anyone within 200 yards.

Jenny Lind

This is my brass lady bell collection. Well I had to have a least one. This is a very popular branch of bell collecting. Thousands are widely available and collectors battle over the rare ones. This had to be the one for me. Jenny Lind was a famous opera singer who was born in 1820 and became known as the Swedish nightingale. This version stands 5 inches tall. She sits in my study below a Royal Opera House poster for the Barber of Seville, which just happens to include a picture of my daughter as Rosina. Now that's another story. Meanwhile Jenny is keeping good company.

Servant's Bell

This is my very own servant's bell in regular daily use. Not that anyone ever hears it! The duck was a gift from a cricketing pal to mark one of my less notable performances. For a bell with a diameter of 6cm it makes quite a sound. They both sit next to my computer on one of my hi fi speakers. Everything has to be fitted in.

Embossed bells

There are probably thousands of these little bells around. They are mostly replicas of bells made long ago. Many have Latin words and religious symbols embossed on them. They can be used on counters or in the home to attract attention. This little lot sit on an old Emerson radio that came back on one of the great liners to England in 1946 from New York. I often listen to commentary from Fratton Park on it on Saturday afternoons. Any other Pompey fans out there?

Davis and Hill

A nice example of a good quality brass bell for a change. Since 1893 Davis & Hill have manufactured bells in Birmingham, the centre of the British Brass Industry. Individually hand made their range of items on offer are finished completely in house. Davis & Hill cast various types and differing sizes of desk, hand and ships bells. This is a 6 inch ships bell. I'm not keen on standard bell brackets so I had this one made by a local blacksmith to match the bracket on an old fire bell. The photos include one of both bells either side of the picture showing the moment England won the rugby world cup in 2003.

And this is the Company today:

Davis and Hill

Muffin Bell

No, not a muffin man's bell but a bell shaped like a muffin used as a fire warning bell long ago, typically in the USA where this one was made in 1868. (engraved on the handle)

Whitechapel Mini Bell

At 1.75 inches in diameter this is the smallest Whitechapel bell!