BAILEY NEW YORK 1794 BELL at Dyrham Park, UK
January 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm #12201
I have received this recent inquiry from Chris in the UK:
I have come accross a bell which seems to hold some mystery. (Belongs to my friend but I have it at the moment). On it is written I . BAILEY NEW YORK 1794. What I am intrigued about is that the bell came from a house in the grounds of Dyrham Park, which is very large estate near bath and goes back to 1692. I understand that the bell was used to ‘summon’ the servants. But, why would they use a bell with an association with New York? As you will know, the best bells ever made, (I would argue otherwise!) were made only a few miles away by the Bilbie family. So if you owned a 274 acre estate and needed a bell, why this one? Dyrham Park was once owned by a chap called William Blathwayte who, as secretary at war to William III, would have been well connected. He died in 1717, prior to 1794, the date on the bell, but regardless the family would have still been well connected. Please could you let my know your thoughts? Thank you for reading this and for any information which may help clear my mystery! Kind Regards, Chris
The height of the bell is approx 15″, the diameter, (accross) is approx 14″ and around the rim approx 38 inches. The bit you can just see on the top of the bell is only the metal attachment it hung from. It should be removed but is rusted on! Will have to sort it out though as it makes it very heavy to lift.
My friend, (Ray), who owns the bell brought it in to me, (where it still is, under my office desk at work – I keep stubbing my toe on it!), because of my interest in the Bilbie family who are of course ‘legendary’. The Bilbie’s lived in the 18th Century and as well as bells, which are still ringing in the towers of many Somerset churches, they made clocks, some of which are still ticking today! What facinated me about them is that they were eccentric to sat the least!. Long wild hair, (not so fashionable in those days) and could scarcely read or write their work bordered on genious. It is said they would never cast a bell except when it was a full moon, midnight, and conditions were perfectly still. Their bells were cleanly cast and many are completely free from any marks indicating there had been chipping to tune them. When the Bilbies cast a bell it was perfectly in tune!
Legend has it that when they were to re-cast a church’s bells, ringers were required to be at the church tower at sunrise on a perfectly still morning. If there was a village pond one of the Bilbies would strip and walk into it up to his neck. When no ripple was left on the pool the ringers would be asked to sound a peel. Presumably acting on the belief that sound travels most perfectly over water, Bilbie would get the notes of the bells firmly in his mind, and then know exactly what was to be done. I could go on! I think its very fitting that some of the family are buried in Chew Stoke church where five of the six bells are cast by them, (one is inscribed, ‘Bilbie and his friends cast me’, – the oldest of the six, dated 1698). They can hear them ring forever!
So you see, being a mind of useless information on such things, my friend thought of me to try to find out anything about this particular bell. I did ask how he came about it. Apparantly, in Dyrham Park grounds there was a large ‘Garden House’ which was part of the estate. The house is still there and lived in but no longer part of the estate, (sold off separately some years ago). My friend’s wife’s father, (so I guess would be his father in law), owned the property, which came with the bell, and when he moved took the bell with him. So we know it was on/in a building which was part of the estate and therefore connected with it, but not much more.
There may be no mystery at all but untill then….. there is a mystery!
January 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm #17326jackbellParticipant
Chris: Forget the states, it was probably cast in New York Lincolnshire, New York North Yorkshire, or New York near Tyne & Wear. Try contacting the county libraries for information on I Bailey’s foundry or perhaps they can refer you to local historians. Let us know what you learn. It’s a super bell. Whether they were literate or not, those Bilbies certainly took their bell making seriously.
January 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm #17327
Brilliant and thank you kindly for your help and the help of the enthusiasts within your organisation. This does make sense and in any event gives me another line of enquiry.
Very much appreciated.
January 25, 2013 at 11:03 pm #17328
Thanks, you have been very helpful – I just started looking up any info on bell foundries in the suggested areas, (New York Yorkshire, New York Tyne & Wear and New York Lincolnshire) and came across a ‘Bell Foundry Museum’ (at Loughborough). Hence I have just sent them all the details and asked if they could help provide any information
December 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm #17329Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
With no responses to this topic in nearly a year, I expect the research in England was a dead end. Actually, this bell was probably made in New York City, USA, where John Bailey and George Hedderly (an English-trained bellfounder) had a partnership in 1794-5. (George Hedderly went on to Philadelphia within the next few years; I have no idea what happened to John Bailey.) How and why the bell went back to England I have no idea.
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