The Sound of Bells

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Stockport, Greater Manchester, St. George, 10, 29-3-12 in Db

Recorded: WAH 2/10/00
Analysed: WAH 5/1/01

These bells are a complete Mears ten of 1896 and a fine example of their type. They are hung in the open at the base of a large spire, and these favourable acoustics give the bells a gritty old-style majesty. Heard from the avenue by the church, these bells can send shivers down the spine if rung well. They have a sound entirely appropriate to the church - one of Hubert Austin's largest and best. Unfortunately I do not have a recording of them rung in peal. Until I get one, here is the tenor.

Bell Founder Tuning
1 - 10 Mears 1896 None since then

Tuning of main partials

Tenor nominal: 574.5Hz.

Bell Hum Prime Tierce Quint Nom'l S'quint O'nom.
1 -2246 -1376 -862 -400 1624 663 1179
2 -2266 -1418 -867
-465 1422 669 1198
3 -2290 -1380 -879 -507 1213
672 1200
4 -2245 -1419 -865
-486 1112 663 1196
5 -2204 -1287 -842
-344 897 672 1209
6 -2211 -1190
-831 - 693 663
7 -2300 -1210
- 490 671
8 -2231 -1206
-848 - 404 667 1208
9 -2266 -1235 -864
-428 208 681 1238
10 -2186 -1288 -865
-359 0 684 1228

(The figures in this table are all given in cents. For all partials except the nominal, the partials are given from the nominals of the bell. Cents of the nominals are relative to the tenor. Pairs of values indicate a doublet. Frequencies for the quint are often not given, especially if inaudible.)

Intensity plots

All the bells have a relatively similar intensity profile. Here are all ten plotted on the same chart:

Stockport St. George

The primes are loud and scattered - see the next section for more on this. Apart from the hums, the remaining partials are very controlled. The seventh has some extra strong partials above the nominal which give this bell a slightly muddier sound that the rest. All in all, though, this diagram shows the good control Mears had over their profiles at this time.


The tuning figures show that the nominals of these bells are well tuned. There is a slight degree of stretch (1/4 semitone across the ten bells) which cuts in from the 4th upwards and, taking this into account, no nominal is more than 10 cents out from the ideal. All the bells are relatively free of doublets.

The primes, as is usually the case with old-style bells, get flatter as the bells get smaller. I do not know if Mears were tuning primes at this time (their tuning machine could not do this in the 1850s) but have assumed that they were controlled through profile. The smaller bells were presumably cast to a relatively heavier profile to give them power against the tenors, flattening the partial. The primes are relatively loud in these bells, and in some Mears old-style peals the flat, loud primes can spoil the tone. This appears not to be an issue with these bells.

As can be seen from the intensity diagram, the seventh and also the tenor have strong partials at 470 - 490 and 1680 cents above the nominal. These two partials are those which in heavier bells give rise to the secondary strike. However, these bells are light enough for the secondary strike not to be apparent. The seventh is perhaps not as pure-sounding a bell as the others because of the high partials.

The octave nominals of these bells are flatter than average and in some cases this partial is almost a perfect octave. In true-harmonic profiled bells these would be rather sharper - up to 3/4 of a semitone sharp. Perhaps the approximation to the octave in this partial adds to the sonority of these bells. Certainly, the degree of stretch in the peal is closely aligned to the tuning of this partial in the tenors.

In summary, these bells are a good example of their class, in a tower whose acoustics make the best of the bells.


Last updated January 6, 2001. Site created by Bill Hibbert, Great Bookham, Surrey