Society of Donhead Ringers

St Mary's, 1994

St Mary's Donhead St Mary seen from the churchyard, Sep 2004

This church holds 6 bells, of which the oldest was cast by Wells of Aldbourn in the 18th century. The other bells were recast in the 19th and 20th centuries. For details of the bells, weights, notes and inscriptions, click [here] for a Microsoft Word document (103 Kb). The stories of the ringers who have rung them since 1880 are being gathered. I hope to go further back into recorded history - tell me what you know! The key note is G and the weight of our tenor, the heaviest bell in the tower, is 9 cwt, 1 quarter and 10 lbs.

Access is by a beautful and unusual wooden staircase at the back of the church, with extensive views along the nave from the top, being, as it is, virtually at roof height.

The Bells

The bell is an old and very complex musical instrument. The bell-note we hear is hugely influenced by the way our ears perceive sounds and how our brains interpret them. Further, the sound of a peal of bells is dependent on the acoustics of the tower in which they hang. A good peal of bells can sound dreadful if the tower design is adverse; a little like singing in your bath can make an opera singer of all of us.

The bell itself produces a combination of notes, not just one simple sound. These notes can be analysed with modern instruments and the quality of the bell assessed. To understand this subject more fully, I recommend you visit the website of Bill Hibbert , who has spent years on this subject.

"A vibrating bell produces many frequencies of sound, each produced by a different vibrational mode of the bell. Once a bell has been cast, the partial frequencies are tuned by removing metal in annular rings, usually from the inside. In fact, it is usually not possible to tune a single partial in a bell. The bell-founder’s skill is needed to accurately bring the partials into tune with themselves"   (W Hibbert, "The Sound of Bells - Overview of tuning")  

The note we think we hear is known as the "strike note" (as it is produced by the clapper striking the bell). In fact the bell note is analysed into 5 partial frequencies. The strike note is generally one octave below the nominal. The tuning figures show whether the bell is well tuned within itself and with the other bells in the peal. The tuning figures, (grateful thanks to Taylors of Loughborough, who retuned the bells in 1951) are set out below. These figures are in Hz and show that the tenor, with a pitch of 762.5 Hz, is just slightly flat of a G.

Treble: 356 / 587 / 777 / 1003 / 1282.5
2: 310 / 525 / 682 / 915 / 1143
3: 257.5 / 509 / 602 / 774 / 1019
4: 252 / 433 / 566 / 725 / 960
5: 223 / 445 / 519 / 677 / 858
Tenor: 206.5 / 395 / 467 / 601 / 762.5

Website design by Christopher Gaskell Sykes

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Society of Donhead Ringers: Copyright© 2004