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The third session of the twelfth Council (34th meeting) was held in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, Ipswich, on Tuesday May 25th, 1926, at 11 a.m. The chair was taken by the president, Canon G. F. Coleridge, who opened the meeting with prayer. There were present 51 members, 23 Guilds and associations being represented.
Archdeacon Farmiloe, on behalf of the Suffolk Guild, welcomed the Council to the Diocese. The President, having thanked the Archdeacon, was then introduced to the Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, who had now entered the chamber. The Bishop said, in welcoming them, that though there were a few who did not appreciate bells, he was certain the majority of people realised that bells were one of the joys of life and one of the ways of expressing it. The Church accepted the help of ringers with great joy, and realised that they were fellow workers. The President then thanked the Bishop for his kindly welcome, and the Council proceeded to discuss the business upon the agenda.
The minutes of the last meeting having been published, were taken as read, and duly confirmed and signed.
Arising out of the minutes, the Honorary Secretary stated that about 40 letters had been addressed to the authorities in the various dioceses in reference to having a representative, with a knowledge of bells, on the advisory committees. There had been about 20 replies generally in agreement with the suggestion.
The Hon. Secretary reported, also, that he had had 500 copies of the Card of Instructions printed as directed, and a further 750 copies, as the first number were sold out, and he moved that his action be confirmed, which, on being seconded by the Rev. C. D. P. Davies, was agreed.
On account of the restricted train service, following upon the General Strike, there were a large number of apologies for absence, following some doubt as to whether the meeting would have had to be abandoned. Apologies for absence were received from Revs. A. T. Beeston, Canon Baker, A. H. F. Boughey, E. W. Carpenter, L. S. Clark, C. C. Cox, H. Tyrwhitt-Drake, F. J. O. Helmore, C. C. Marshall, C. E. Matthews and H. S. T. Richardson, Mrs. N. Edwards, Messrs. J. Carter, Alderman R. B. Chambers, J. Cotterell, H. Day, H. Haigh, A. J. Hughes, P. J. Johnson, E. H. Lewis, T. Metcalfe, J. D. Matthews, D. J. Nichols, H. W. Wilde and W. Willson.
The balance sheet, presented by the hon. secretary and treasurer, showed that the year started with a balance in hand of £67 14s. 3d. The receipts included a donation of £5 towards the publication of the Cards of Instruction from the Rev. H. Drake, affiliation fees £13 10s., interest on stock £4 10s. 8d., and sale of Cards of Instruction 13s. 1d., a total of £24 13s. 9d. The expenditure, including the loss on the sale of publications of £5 12s. 6d. was £16 13s., leaving a balance in the bank of £70 16s. The accounts were adopted on the motion of the Rev. H. Law James, seconded by Mr. Pryce Taylor.
The Hon. Librarian, Rev. C. W. O. Jenkyn, reported the completion of the Washbrook Memorial Scheme, and said that there was a balance of £28. Turning to the Council’s publications, he said that the sales realised £4 19s. 1d., the expenses were £10 11s. 3d., including £9 2s. for advertising. He also reported that the ‘Collection of Minor Methods’ was out of print. He had purchased for the Council, Canon Elsee’s stock of ‘On the Preservation of Bells,’ and also secured a considerable number of copies of ‘Bell News’ for 1912-1915, inclusive, but he still required some further copies to complete the years 1912, 1913 and 1915.
The four retiring honorary members, Mrs. Edwards, Rev. E. W. Carpenter, Mr. J. George and Mr. H. W. Wilde, were re-elected.
The following new members were then introduced to the president: Mr. J. Hammond (Swansea and Brecon), Mr. F. J. Davey (Devon), and Mr. E. F. Poppy (Suffolk).
The Hon. Secretary then reported on the steps which, after consultation with the president and Standing Committee, were taken in the Consistory Court to preserve Coventry bells. Unfortunately, though they put up a good fight, they were not successful. He said they were very much indebted to the services of Mr. Pritchett, an eminent member of the Bar, and a member of the Council’s Standing Committee. The Hon. Secretary, referring to the long efforts which Mr. Cyril F. Johnston had made to save the loss of these bells as a ringing peal, said if he had come to the Council for help those efforts might have met with more success. Mr. J. S. Pritchett then pointed out that the action was not altogether wasted, because it secured the bells being preserved as a peal of ten, instead of merely part of a carillon. The Hon. Secretary then moved that the Council confirm the action of the Standing Committee and pay the incidental expenses incurred. This was seconded by Rev. H. Drake, of the Suffolk Guild, which had, he said, supported the action enthusiastically. The President expressed the Council’s heartiest thanks to Mr. Young and Mr. Pritchett, and the motion was carried. (All those present were presented by Mr. Young with a quarto booklet, giving the whole of the letters, etc., in the action.)
PEAL COLLECTION COMMITTEE.
Miss Parker reported that the work of adding the new Treble Bob compositions was proceeding. It involved the examination of the original peals to see that variations did not creep in, and it was hoped to have it in type for the next meeting. The report was adopted.
LITERATURE AND PRESS COMMITTEE.
In the absence through illness of the convener, Rev. C. E. Matthews, the Hon. Secretary reported that during the year the committee had been revising the Book of Rules, which they hoped to have in type before the next meeting. Incidentally, during the year the committee had been looking after the ringers’ interests in the Press and in broadcasting. Rev. H. Law James said the report on Methods should not be reprinted in the book until the Methods Committee had brought it up to date. The report was accepted.
Rev. H. Law James reported that the committee was still ready to print the Plain Major methods, and he moved that 300 copies now be printed. Mr. Burton having intervened on behalf of the Nomenclature Committee, it was moved by Mr. T. Hervey Beams, and seconded by Rev. C. D. P. Davies, and agreed that the matters referred to should be dealt with later in the day. The motion and report being seconded by the honorary secretary, were then carried and accepted.
PEALS ANALYSIS COMMITTEE.
The report as published was formally presented by Miss Parker, and on the motion of the President was unanimously adopted.
TOWERS AND BELFRIES COMMITTEE.
In the absence of the convener, Mr. E. H. Lewis, the Hon. Secretary, reported he said that during the year Major J. H. B. Hesse and himself were asked to inspect and report upon the tower of the Church of St. Michael, Southampton. Major Hesse called attention to the necessity of painting metal bell-frames at least every five years. He said he had seen some bad cases of neglect lately. The President said he thought they should be painted every three years. The report being formally seconded by Rev. C. D. P. Davies, was carried.
Mr. T. Hervey Beams said the committee had practically nothing to report, and on the motion of the President the statement was accepted.
SCIENCE MUSEUM EXHIBIT COMMITTEE.
The Hon. Secretary (as convener) said they had now in the National Science Museum a small section illustrating their art, and that it included the famous ringing machine invented by Mr. John Carter. He proposed that, as there was no more work for the committee to do, it should be allowed to lapse, and the duties be taken over by the Standing Committee. These duties included the care of the Carter machine. It had, he said, been Mr. Carter’s wish for it to be in the museum on permanent loan, under the trusteeship of the Council, and for him and Rev. C. D. P. Davies to be the first trustees. They had accepted the post, and now proposed to appoint Mr. C. Roberts, a London ringer, who had agreed to master the machine and to demonstrate it. He (Mr. Young) had been able to extract from Mr. Carter details of the machine, which he had incorporated in a book deposited with the machine. Rev. C. D. P. Davies, in seconding, congratulated the Council upon the arrangements made. Mr. J. S. Pritchett expressed appreciation of the services which Mr. Young rendered in the matter. It was resolved that the report be accepted and that the committee be dissolved, and the duties carried on by the Standing Committee, and also that representatives be appointed by the Council to act as trustees of the Carter ringing machine.
Mr. G. P. Burton reported for his committee, and said they presented their report a year ago. This year they had embodied with it 13 resolutions, all as per the typed copy which those present had in their hands. The interval had allowed time for reflection, and, of course, criticism; the latter they welcomed when it was helpful and constructive. He dealt at length with the position and with some of the points urged against their report, and, speaking of some of the old methods, said he realised that their history was reflected in their compound names; but too many adjectives were an encumbrance, and if of old there was the power to build up names, so there should be to-day the power to revise or undo them. It was wrong for any individual to have such liberty in nomenclature; it engendered trouble and even ridicule; it was also a duty they owed to the future to hand on suitable names. Flower names certainly should go, and to this and the other proposals he asked for a plain ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Mr. Burton then moved the 13 resolutions as published (‘R.W.,’ April 2nd and July 9th, 1926).
Mr. J. A. Trollope moved as an amendment: ‘That this Council, while urging on the Exercise the extreme importance of choosing suitable names for new methods, declines to interfere with such rights as bands and individual ringers at present enjoy of giving names to new methods. And, further, is of the opinion that no alteration should be made in the names of old and historical methods, except where urgently necessary.’
The speaker disagreed as to the alleged confusion and lack of system; on the contrary, he said, the present names were, on the whole, good, and some had been in use nearly 300 years. After all, what was wrong with ‘Double Norwich Court Bob Major’? Such titles were replete with history, and could never be replaced with single-word names. The amendment aimed at non-interference with individual rights and prevention of any break in the continuity of their history.
The Rev. C. D. P. Davies, in seconding, said he was against altering the accustomed names, and believed in natural growth in such things. The amendment was debated at considerable length, the Rev. H. Law James and Mr. E. W. Elwell strongly supporting it, whilst Mr. W. A. Cave, being in part agreement only, urged the resolutions be voted on clause by clause. After the luncheon interval, Mr. J. S. Pritchett supported the amendment, and dealt with the Council’s difficulty, i.e., there was too much to digest, for even if taken line by line they had enough for a week. The committee would be wiser first to concentrate upon reform of the urgent and worst cases, for wholesale changes invited controversy; the lines upon which they might well proceed were suggested in the amendment, and their aim should be a less elaborate report. Though he agreed that non-historic and uncouth names required alteration, he preferred to keep the floral names. He was sure progress could be made if his suggestion was followed.
The Rev. H. Drake, speaking for the committee, said that the latter had discussed the amendment, and were largely in agreement with it. He agreed with most of Mr. Pritchett’s remarks, but would remind them, however, that there had been the definite instructions of the Council to formulate their suggestions and revisions, and especially so in the case of the floral names. It would be found that they had so acted, and that the historical names were practically untouched. He suggested that the amendment be treated as a rider, then the committee could carry on albeit a little differently and with less feeling of wasted effort. This suggestion not meeting with favour, the amendment was then put and carried by 29 to 3, and was then agreed as a substantive motion without further discussion.
The Hon. Secretary then moved his motion, of which notice was given at Chester the year before, i.e., ‘That the Council should consider whether “Simpson” tuning is in the best interests of the Exercise.’ He said he had stepped into the controversy with some diffidence, the subject being naturally obscure and difficult. He was sure, however, that though most of those present might differ from him, all would find the subject of bell tones very near to them. Firstly, dealing with personal associations, he referred to two peals in his native Southampton, one the old tuning, and one the new, i.e., at St. Michael’s and St. Mary’s. Then passing on to the views for and against such tuning, he referred to the life and work of both the late Canon Simpson and also the late Mr. T. C. Lewis, and described what was meant by the Mediæval, the Old Standard, and the Simpson methods. The Church to-day, he continued, was pressed for funds, and it was therefore the more wasteful to spend large sums in recasting, merely to comply with certain modern ideas, which latter might well be open to doubt. The money could be better spent over a wider and more useful field. Then turning to the practical side, it was well known that many conductors complained of the Simpson ‘howl.’ There were also the questions of ear fatigue, and, again, bell fatigue, due to excessive vibration, of which little was as yet known.
Mr. Young, who had given all those present his pamphlet on ‘Bell Tones,’ then dealt at length with the musical and theoretical sides of the case. A bell, he said, should have the right overtones in order to give a certain liquid quality to the natural percussive character of its note. He gave the accepted values of the consonant intervals, and demonstrated the ‘thirds,’ especially the difficult minor third, so characteristic of the Simpson-tuned bell. He referred to the disadvantages of the minor key, and contrasted it with that of the Major. It was remarkable, he said, that the change in musical ideas in the sixteenth century, as ultimately fixed by the great Bach, synchronised with the great alteration deliberately made by the English bell founders, a change not lightly to be set aside. In concluding, Mr. Young said the Simpsonian method was not necessarily ‘scientific’; the term, he thought, belonged more properly to the ‘Old Standard,’ and that the present trend was a retrograde one. He trusted that the founders would most carefully consider the position and leave as many as possible of the old good bells as a legacy for the future.- Mr. W. A. Cave briefly supported and seconded the motion.
Major J. H. B. Hesse, speaking to the contrary from a lengthy and carefully prepared statement, claimed that the misunderstanding began when they attempted to define Simpson tuning. All knew that this new system originated with a certain firm of bell founders, who advertised their bells as tuned ‘upon Canon Simpson’s principle,’ but after his death dropped it for ‘in true harmonic tone,’ as being more correct. He asked if it were not better to cast and tune with understanding rather than by chance. Would anyone really think that Rudhall and other past masters of the art could unconsciously and without knowledge do finer work than the scientific founders of to-day ? Objectors should honestly say that their real reasons were sentimental and archæological, and influenced by fear of the carillon. Continuing, the speaker gave a long list of towers containing successful Simpson peals, and said that many famous old bells proved to be nearly true to that principle.
It being here suggested that there be concurrently taken a motion upon the agenda, viz., ‘That, in the opinion of the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association, historic bells should not be turned on the “Simpson” principle.’ It was ruled by the president that the motion was ‘out of order.’
Mr. Cyril F. Johnston referred first of all to the Coventry bells, which he said were not being destroyed but only recast; and he enlarged upon the difficulties which his firm had had to surmount. Turning to Simpson tuning, he reminded them that there was nothing new under the sun, and admitted that the new system was the rediscovery, and, he trusted, improvement also, of the practice of the mediæval founders. He agreed with Mr. Young that the harmonics at St. Michael’s, Southampton, were very good, but the bells were recast owing to structural defects. The bell founders welcomed criticism; he disagreed, however, with the mover of the resolution in the matter of the 7th hum note, and, quoting Coventry bells as an example, showed that there was no sequence in their falsities, and that these were quite fortuitous. All good old bells, he claimed, possessed the minor third. Founders realised there were difficulties, and it was impossible to eliminate them in any system. They were much indebted to the late Canon Simpson for the new light he had thrown on tuning, and his efforts had undoubtedly induced certain founders to improve upon their work.
Mr. Pryce Taylor mentioned his own acquaintance with the late Canon Simpson, and referred to his firm’s close connection with him. Habit and prejudice were hindrances, but no one who had experienced the musical satisfaction of Simpson peals could be content with the incomplete tuning which had hitherto passed muster. He claimed for his firm the honour of being the first to produce the scientifically tuned bells. Referring to the minor third, in his opinion it was a necessity in any good bell, old or new.
Mr. A. A. Hughes, following, said he had no doubt that scientific tuning had come to stay. Mr. E. Barnett thought that Simpson-tuned bells were offensively noisy and harsh against the beautiful softness of bells tuned by the old founders.
Mr. T. Faulkner, in moving an amendment ‘That this Council as a body is not qualified to pass an opinion on the subject at present,’ said that few of the Council possessed the necessary training, education or knowledge to pass judgment upon either method of tuning. This was seconded by the Rev. E. S. Powell in a brief speech.
The Rev. H. Law James admitted his conversion to the Simpson method of tuning, after some doubts on the matter, and made suggestions which he thought might prevent undue ‘howling.’ The debate was continued by Mr. T. R. Dennis, the Rev. C. D. P. Davies and Canon H. J. Elsee, the latter saying that whilst he himself preferred Simpson tuning, he allowed there was much to be said on both sides, and he thought the matter was one for the taste of the general public rather than that of the Exercise. It would be a pity, however, if old bells were melted down to be tuned on new principles, as it would be pure vandalism to destroy all examples of the work of bell founders of the eighteenth and previous centuries. Concluding, he endorsed Mr. Young’s observations on the necessity of conserving Church funds for vital needs.
Mr. Young, in briefly replying, drew a parallel from the ‘exact’ and wonderful Parthenon at Athens. Columns, etc., were put out of truth to please the eye: could not a bell be slightly out of truth to please the ear?
There being only one dissentient to the amendment, it was put as a motion and agreed, nem con.
RINGERS ON ADVISORY COMMITTEES.
The Rev. Law James moved the following resolution: ‘Forasmuch as the church towers of England contain a large number of valuable old bells, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers request the Diocesan Advisory Committees of the various dioceses to co-opt some members, having knowledge of the archæology, tuning and proper hanging of bells, to form a special sub-committee to advise them, when necessary, on all questions relating to the tuning, recasting or rehanging of bells, in order that bells may not needlessly be recast, and that rehanging shall be carried out in a proper manner.’ He said very little had come of the previous circular letter in respect to putting a change ringer on the committees. Mr. R. Richardson seconded the motion.
Mr. Drake agreed with the motion, and he thought the Council should lay down rules dealing with the care of ancient bells. The debate was continued by Messrs. C. H. Howard, C. Mee and F. Wilford. The Rev. C. W. O. Jenkyn pointed out that it was not always necessary to have such a member upon the committee, as it was perhaps better to have an adviser outside it, which was his position in regard to the Oxford Diocesan Committee. Being reminded by the honorary secretary, the president pointed out that the matter was before the meeting last year, when a circular letter was sent to the secretaries of the 36 dioceses. The motion was carried.
RAILWAY TRAVELLING FACILITIES.
Mr. E. Guise moved ‘that the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association earnestly requests the Central Council to continue to press the Railway Clearing Board for cheap travelling facilities to be granted to ringers.’ He said that his association had taken it up with the local railway superintendent without success. This was seconded by Mr. E. Bishop. The President having referred to previous abortive attempts, the Hon. Secretary said that he had had an interview with the Central Authority, but though the case had been again considered, they had not been successful. He, however, suggested taking it up again next year. It was ultimately agreed to leave the matter in the hands of the president and hon. secretary to see what could be done.
Mr. T. H. Taffender moved, ‘That the Council consider the question of the institution of a “Bell ringers’ Sunday” by means of an annual service throughout the country, and make recommendations.’ He said he hoped it would be possible for the Council to draw up a scheme for a bell ringers’ Sunday in the same way that there were hospital and other Sundays. This was seconded by Mr. A. D. Barker, but considerable objection was made by the Rev. C. D. P. Davies, and the Rev. H. Law James thought that it would be better for every Guild to have their own special Sunday service. Rev. Canon H. J. Elsee concurred with the latter.
After some further remarks by Messrs. T. R. Dennis, E. W. Elwell and J. Hunt, Mr. W. A. Cave suggested a bell ringers’ Saturday, which being ruled out of order by the president, the motion was put and lost.
A resolution deprecating Simpson tuning of historic bells was next upon the agenda, but it had already been ruled out of order by the president.
Mr. T. Faulkner having raised a question as to the umpiring of record peals, after some discursive remarks and a few words from the president the matter was allowed to drop.
On the motion of the President, the Council accepted the offer of the hon. secretary to send, on its behalf, the Coventry Bells booklet to those members who were absent, and also to the secretaries of the affiliated Guilds, after the proceedings in the Consistory Court had been added in the book.
The President expressed the appreciation and thanks of the Council for all that had been done for their comfort and convenience by the Suffolk Guild, and Canon H. J. Elsee proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the chairman. Both motions being carried with applause, the President briefly replied, and the proceedings terminated at about 5.20.
The Ringing World, April 15th, 1927, pages 234 to 236
The various associations were represented as follows:-
Ancient Society of College Youths: Messrs. A. A. Hughes, T. W. Faulkner and H. R. Newton.
Bath and Wells: Mr. J. Hunt.
Bedfordshire Association: Mr. A. E. Sharman.
Chester Diocesan Guild: Messrs. E. W. Elwell and J. Ashmole.
Essex Association: Messrs. C. H. Howard, W. J. Nevard, G. R. Pye and E. J. Butler.
Ely Diocesan Association: Mr. T. R. Dennis.
Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association: Messrs. W. A. Cave, E. Guise and E. Bishop.
Kent County Association: Messrs. T. Groombridge and E. Barnett, sen.
Llandaff and Monmouth Diocesan Association: Messrs. J. W. Jones and W. Bolton.
Lincoln Diocesan Guild: The Rev. H. Law James and Mr. R. Richardson.
London County Association: Messrs. T. H. Taffender and A. D. Barker.
Ladies’ Guild: Miss E. K. Parker.
Lancashire Association: The Rev. H. J. Elsee and Mr. J. R. Taylor.
Middlesex County Association: Messrs. F. A. Milne and W. H. Hollier.
Midland Counties Association: Mr. Pryce Taylor.
Norfolk Guild: Messrs. G. P. Burton, A. L. Coleman and C. E. Borrett.
Oxford Diocesan Guild: The President, the Rev. C. W. O. Jenkyn and Mr. F. W. Hopgood.
Peterborough Diocesan Association: Mr. F. Wilford.
Salisbury Diocesan Guild: Mr. T. Hervey Beams.
Swansea and Brecon Guild: Mr. J. Hammond.
Suffolk Guild: The Rev. H. Drake, Messrs. C. Mee and E. F. Poppy.
Surrey Association: Messrs. C. F. Johnston and C. Dean.
Winchester Diocesan Guild: Messrs. G. Williams and A. H. Pulling.
Honorary Members: The Rev. C. D. P. Davies, Major J. H. B. Hesse, Messrs. J. S. Pritchett, J. A. Trollope, J. George and E. A. Young (hon. sec.).
The Ringing World, May 28th, 1926, page 330