logoBritish Pathé films

by Andrew Johnson

On 17th April 2014, British Pathé released its entire collection of 85,000 historic newsreel and film clips on the Internet. Before television the only way people could watch moving pictures of topical events was at the cinema, where newsreels were shown before the main film. British Pathé has an extensive film archive of news, sporting, royal and society events together with some short documentaries. I searched the British Pathé archive for some bell ringing related film clips and found several of interest. Perhaps readers can put names to some of the faces?

Bell Manufacture

New Bells For Old (1920-1929)
B/W, silent, 4:08
This appears to be the Gillett and Johnston foundry, Croydon.
Opening shot of an old Royal Exchange bell, 1851 – 2. Shows a man in flat cap, waistcoat and white shirt breaking up of an old bell with a sledgehammer. Two men make a core with clay then shape it with a strickle, then cover the inside of the case with clay mixture to make the cope. Decoration is applied to the cope with a stamp and mallet. Bell metal is poured from the furnace into a big ladle, then poured into the mould. The bell is then lifted out of the pit, the core removed, and the decoration trimmed and sanded. A man in a jacket and tie tests the tone of the bell with a mallet and tuning for while it stands on a vertical lathe and he marks inside of the bell with chalk. The bell is then tuned on the lathe by another man. The bell is then sandblasted by a man wearing a primitive helmet looking like a bucket with an air pipe into the crown. You can just about read the inscription on the bell saying ‘Gillett and Johnston’.


for the Royal Exchange bell see also:
Out of Tune (1920)
B/W, silent, 0:11
Removal of the old Royal Exchange bell.


Bell Foundry (1954)
B/W, sound, 3:11
Whitechapel bell foundry.
Opening shots of church towers while 8 bells ring rounds and fire, Tom Tower, Oxford, Canterbury Cathedral with war damage to the base of the south tower. Two men forge two pieces of a clapper together with a power hammer. then drill out the counterweight. William Hughes tests the tuning bells for St George’s, Barkingside and Jersey, shots of Big Ben striking.


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (1966)
Colour, sound, 1:10, 1:08
Mould making, casting, tuning. Good sharp pictures.


Bell Making (1940-1949)
B/W, silent, 4:49
French? – shows bells being broken up, making of decoration for moulds, bells cast, being polished and transported by ox cart.


Bell foundry in Lucca, Tuscany. Italy (1949)
B/W, silent, 1:34
Mould making and casting.


The Manufacture of Church Bells (1960)
L’Accordeur de Cloches
B/W, sound, 2:09
France – mould making, casting, tuning using tuned wire, frequency generator and an oscilloscope.


American comes to us too! (1925)
B/W, silent, 0:46
World’s largest carillon of 53 bells made in Croydon for Riverside church, New York.


To be bells of New York (1925)
B/W, silent 2:08
Carillon of 53 bells leave for New York.


British Bells Are Best (1926)
B/W, silent, 1:14
10th largest bell in the world – weighing over 15 tons – leaves in Cunarder ‘Ascania’ for America.
London. A large bell is lifted by a crane. There are more detailed shots of the bell. People watch as it is lowered into the hold of the ship.


Our bells for New York (1931)
B/W, sound, 0:49
The Riverside church carillon in action.

Ringers and bell ringing

St Paul’s Cathedral Reel 2 (1920 - 1929)
B/W, silent, 27:13
A long film of all aspects of St Paul’s cathedral, but with a few shots of ringing, including (at 0:23) two men ringing, then two others, with two watching, (at 2:12) 3 men ringing and a close up of a man in white shirt, waistcoat and tie ringing the tenor (with a strapper), At 15:42 another man ringing with Ellacombe chiming ropes behind.


Bells of Bologna 1934
B/W, sound, 1:01
The bell ringers of Bologna, ringing bells up by stepping on the headstocks, supporting themselves by holding onto ropes. Once the bells are up they are rung using the headstock, or from immediately below with a rope attached to the headstock. A most dangerous looking technique!


Bell Ringers (1944)
B/W, sound, 1:04
Men and women learning on handbells, then tower bells at St Paul’s church, Melbourne, Australia. Some good shots of the ringers with the sound of the bells, a short shot of the bells ringing (upside down!).


Canterbury – Bell Ringers (1948)
B/W, sound, 0:40
St Alphege church, Canterbury, Kent.
9 Canterbury school children ringing on Sunday evening including Joy Crisp & Cynthia Harper.


Ringers Fail In Record Bid (1954)
B/W, sound, 0;50
Second attempt for record length of 40,320 Major at Taylor’s bell foundry, Loughborough.
Mr Shirley Burton: umpire, Eric Critchley from Doncaster, Cliff Barrow of Birmingham, Mr Jesson of Leicester Cathedral, Mr Allen of Leicester Cathedral, William Jackson of Doncaster, Mr Harding of Kings Lynn and Wilfred Horton of Wakefield, Peter Border of Coventry. Peal attempt was lost after 10 hours due to a miscall.


The Bells Ring Again (1957)
B/W, sound, 2:04
St Clement Danes dedication – and tapping out of Oranges and Lemons by Mr Hughes on the upturned bells outside.


Shoreham Village Church (1959)
B/W, silent and sound, 4:06, 6:58, 1:28
Christmas service, Various shots of men and women bell ringers. The film with the ringers doesn’t have sound, so perhaps it was an out-take.


Bow Bells Peal Again (1961)
B/W, sound, 1:01 and 1:27 (silent)
The Duke of Edinburgh reopens the steeple after war loss in May 1941. He is welcomed at the west door by the Bishop of London and the Rector, and he chimes a bell. At the end is the sound of the bells in rounds.


Hempsted: Doctors Give Bells (1962)
B/W, sound, 1:14
3rd June 1962. Dedication of tower and bells at Hempsted, Essex, where William Harvey is buried. The cost was defrayed by the William Harvey Memorial fund and the Harveian Society. The film shows the dedication service with the Bishop of Colchester and eminent doctors, then shots of the ringers, and 6 bells ringing rounds.


Village Wedding (1962)
Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.
Colour, sound, 1:55 and 4:53
A wedding in Oxfordshire where the whole village was invited.
8 bells ringing Queens, shots of all the ringers.
The second film of out-takes has more of the ringers.


1932’s First Big Wedding (1932)
B/W, sound, 1:31
Stoke-By-Clare, Suffolk – the village wedding of Hon. Maysie Loch and Mr I. G. Lindsay.
Six bells ringing call changes.


An “All Gold” Wedding (1932)
B/W, sound, 1:28
The King and Queen – and huge crowds – at the marriage of Lord Hyde and Hon. Marion Glyn at Westminster Abbey.
Rounds, a few changes and firing on eight.


Wedding Bells (1937)
Lord Hotham and Lady Winifred Cecil
B/W, sound, 0:56
Some indistinct ringing from St Martin’s, Stamford in the background of the wedding report.


Church bell in a tree (1937)
B/W, sound, 0;24
Barfreston near Dover, Kent.
Several shots of the church in small village of Barfreston near Dover. Several shots of the church bells hanging from nearby trees because the villagers complained otherwise they couldn’t hear the bells.


Bell Montage (1940)
B/W, silent, 1:26
Bells across Europe, including those at Pinner, Middlesex.


Bells Ringing (1940)
B/W, silent, 0:35
Bells ringing in a flint tower, Pinner again but better quality than the previous film.


Wedding Bells (1947)
B/W, silent, 4:12


Wedding Bells (1947)
B/W, silent, 2:04
Smaller bell swinging.


The Princess Weds (1947)
B/W, sound, 8:56
Both previous clips of a bell used at the start of this film of the Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.


Elizabeth is Queen (1952)
Colour, sound, 9:08
At 1:25 sounds of Westminster Abbey bells.


Bells Ringing (1961)
B/W, silent, 0:38
Single bell with wooden headstock rung half way up.


Bells (1970-1979)
Colour, silent, 1:10, upside down!
Various shots of bells ringing full circle, with wooden headstocks in a steel frame, brick tower.
BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers