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The five old bells into six was run,
With additional metal near a ton. 1758, says the jovial tenor of St. Mary's, Whittlesea, in the same county.
The spelling of the inscriptions often exhibits the refreshing unconventionality of a period when Shakespeare himself seldom signed his name twice in the same way. On the sixth bell at Wimborne Minster, Dorsetshire, we find
Sounde out the belles in God regoyce. I. W. 1600. A bell at Fen Ditton, near Cambridge, has
Feare the Lord and on him cavi,
William Havsley made vs all. 1623;
John Darbie made me 1677,
A Treabell for to be,
Occasionally bells are found with the alphabet, or a portion of it, upon them. A Leicester founder, Hugh Watts, in the time of James I., was remarkably partial to the alphabet as a bell-inscription. It certainly must have saved a great deal of trouble when fresh ideas for inscriptions ran rather short. Another eccentric founder writes his inscription backwards ; others turn the figures of the date upside down, and indulge in all sorts of fusorial waggery.
Very mild indeed are some of the rhymes occasionally found. At Stanford, Northamptonshire, near Rugby, the treble has
Ser thomas cave
this bell he gave. 1631. Its next companion has
I. H. S. Nazarenvs rex judæorvin
Fili Dei, miserere mei. 1624. This last inscription, by the way, was a favourite one with several founders about the middle of the last century, though somehow it seems a little out of joint with those times. The kindly sentiment,
Peace and good neighbourhood. E.E., W. E. 1726, is found on the first bell at the splendid old Priory Church at Cartmel, Lancashire. The initials are those of the founders, Evan Evans & William Evans, of Chepstow. But mere founders', rectors', and churchwardens' names characterise an immense number of the bell-inscriptions of the last two centuries or more.
Until the invention of change-ringing in the seventeenth century,
bells were probably not so numerous as they afterwards became. Quality and size were preferred to a number of lightish bells; but with changeringing a vast amount of jangling set in, and many a fine old bell was cracked or broken by reckless practising of the new discovery.
The first to reduce the art of change-ringing to a system was one Fabian Stedman, a printer of Cambridge, who is said to have printed his changes on slips of paper, and taught them to his companions in the well-known Saxon tower of St. Benet's Church in that town. His book, the “Tintinnalogia," was published in 1668, and during the following century change-ringing became a very popular amusement. Ringing societies were formed all over the country, whose members went about from place to place, and treated the inhabitants to lengthy exhibitions of their skill with the bell-ropes.
The system of change-ringing is simple, consisting merely of altering the order in which the bells are pulled each time. To preserve the desired order, however, and the proper interval between the bells, and to prevent any two or more sounding simultaneously, requires much care and practice, otherwise the ringing would soon become a mere senseless jangle and clatter. Each bell awaits its turn upside down, ready to be pulled over and sounded the instant it is wanted; but with a small number of bells, the resting-time of some of them is exceedingly brief.
As the number of changes which can be rung on large peals of ten or twelve bells runs into millions, and as it takes about three hours' hard work to get through 5,000 or 6,000, it is plain that changeringing, fortunately perhaps in some respects, has its limits. Nevertheless it is a healthy and invigorating pastime, and we are quite in agreement with the sentiments expressed on a board in a church tower in Huntingdonshire :
All you young Men yi larn yo Ringen Art
nor be Compard to ye Melodeous bells. 1757. We wish we could say that the names of some of the “peals,” i.l., arrangements of changes, are as “ Melodeous ” as the peals themselves, when skilfully rung on good bells, undoubtedly are. But Bob Minor, Bob Major, Bob Maximus, Oxford Treble Bob, and Norwich Court Bob are certainly more grotesque than musical, nor are Grandsire Triples, Grandsire Caters, and Grandsire Cinques, or Imperial the Third, very much better. Many very fine peals of bells were cast during the latter part of the last century and the early part of this, when change-ringing was at the height of its popularity.
Those at St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich ; at St. Mary's, Cambridge; at Bow Church in London, and many others, will long be, let us hope, eloquent proofs of the perfection to which our fathers carried the ancient art of bell-casting.
The bells of an ordinary village church weigh about 7 or 8 cwt. apiece, ranging from the treble, or first bell, of about 5 cwt., to the tenor, or last, of perhaps 12 cwt. In peals of eight bells the tenor should weigh not less than 20 cwt. When the tenor is above 30 cwt. or so, it is necessary to have two men to ring it; but such bells are not very numerous. Most of the really large bells are never “rung" at all, in the technical sense of the word employed by ringers, i.e., swung upside down and then down again. The strain upon the tower, to say nothing of the labour required, would be too great, and a fairly good effect can be produced by pulling the clapper against the side with a rope. Our biggest bells, however, are not often heard, save through the medium of the clock-hammer. The celebrated “ Great Tom of Oxford,” at Christchurch, is one of the exceptions to this rule, being tolled 101 times every night, in accordance with ancient usage. “ Tolling,” by the way, as distinct from “ringing," is simply swinging the bell gently to and fro till the tongue or clapper strikes the side.
The beli in question, with its namesake at Lincoln, and the one which did duty as the largest at St. Paul's Cathedral till lately, is one of our largest old bells. They weigh 7), 5), and about 4 tons respectively; but “Great Peter” at York and “Big Ben” of Westminster weigh 10 and 137 tons. Both of the last-named were cast by Messrs. Mears, of London, in 845 and 1858. The Westminster bell made a bad start in life. It was first cast in 1856 by Messrs. Warner, at Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, and was brought to London by sea. Before being raised, experiments were made upon it with much too heavy a hammer, under which the bell was speedily cracked. It was then re-cast by Messrs. Mears, after being smashed up where it lay, with a falling weight. Its dimensions are : height, 7 feet 6 inches ; diameter across mouth, 9 feet. There is a flaw in it again, which developed after it was got up, but it is so slight as not to affect perceptibly the tone of, certainly, one of our finest bells.
The new "Great Paul,” cast by Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, a few years ago, is a very grand bell both in tone and size, and weighs close upon 17 tons. It had to be taken up by road, by a traction engine, being too large for a railway truck.
The town halls at several places, notably Manchester, have some
very heavy modern bells; in most cases, however, intended only for the clock to strike upon. In truth, bells for ringing are somewhat out of place in large towns nowadays. There are noises enough and to spare, and the echo of a heavy peal with high buildings all round is often somewhat distressing. In crowded streets, too, people have not the leisure necessary to appreciate bells, however fine or well rung these may be. In the country the case is altogether different, and few sounds are more soothing and grateful than those of a welltuned peal of bells floating across the meadows on a summer evening, or ringing the Old Year out and the New Year in, after the simple fashion of our worthy old bell-loving ancestors.
W. B. PALEY.
THE GREAT FOREST OF SUSSEX.
'HROUGH the counties of Surrey and Kent runs a long line of
chalk hills, whose eastern extremity is crowned by Dover Castle. Along the coast of Sussex stretches another mighty rampart of chalk, terminating abruptly at Beachy Head. Between these two chains of hills, which may be conveniently described as the North and South Downs, is included an extensive tract of beautiful wooded country, whose soil consists of clay and sand, and which is known as the Weald of Sussex, Surrey, and Kent. Midway between the North and South Downs, a range of sandy hills bisects the Weald. This third range, called “the Forest ridge,” commences at Fairlight, near Hastings, and extends through Sussex by way of Battle, Dallington (once famous for its chase), Heathfield, Crowborough Beacon (where it attains a height of Soo feet), Ashdown forest, Tilgate forest near Worth, and St. Leonard's forest near Horsham, at the western extremity of the county.
Let us take our stand, in imagination, on the summit of Ditchling Beacon, the highest point of the South Downs, and indeed the highest ground in all Sussex. We are now nearly 860 feet above the English Channel, and a splendid panorama of the Weald lies open before us, bounded only by the chalk hills of Surrey in the far distance. At our feet the main line from Brighton to London emerges from the Clayton tunnel, which has been driven under the range of the South Downs. Twenty-six miles due north, as straight as an arrow can fly, is Merstham tunnel, where the railway pierces the further boundary of the Weald—the North Downs; while exactly half way stands the little village of Balcombe, where a third tunnel affords a passage under the Forest ridge.
The Romans were quick to perceive the strategic value of Ditchling Beacon, and established a camp there ; and from that point of vantage were able to watch the surrounding country, and to send signals by beacon, or other means, when danger threatened and the enemy were astir.