Acknowledgements & Resources



Many thanks to the following individuals for helping me identify my set of Dunn handbells, as well as information on historic bells.  There was precious little information on this foundry prior to Butler’s Musical Handbells which unfortunately, wasn’t available when I purchased the set.

Tony Buckingham, John Taylor Bellfounders, Ltd.,

Marlow Cowan, CBR Handbell Repair.

Kathryn Hughes, Whitechapel Bell Foundry,

Willard Markey, Malmark, Inc.,

Jerry Olson, private collector.


Butler, William. Musical Handbells. England: Phillimore & Co., Ltd., 2000.  (The definitive text on musical handbells.  Deals specifically with the history of British handbells and foundries.  Available from:, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.)

Jennings, Trevor S. Handbells. Haverfordwest, Dyfed, England: Shire Publications, Ltd., C.I. Thomas & Sons Ltd., 1989.  (Shire #241. Deals with many types of hand bells - has one chapter on musical handbells.)

Overtones 1955-1986: Thirty-two years of Overtones. Manhattan, Kansas: AG Press, 1987.  (A compilation American Guild of English Handbell Ringers [AGEHR] journals.  You can check old copies for information on old bells too.  Talbott Library, Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Princeton, NJ has a set of bound copies from 1960 - present.)

Parry, Scott Brink. The Story of Handbells. Boston, Massachusetts: Whittemore Associates, Inc., 1957.  (Information on handbells and ringing.  It has a nice chart of foundries with dates, etc.  It's out of print, but you can usually find a copy or 2 lurking in the used books section at Amazon or Barnes and Noble)

Price, Percival. Bells and Man. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.  (Good resource for the history of bells in general.)

Sawyer, David S. Vibrations: Making Unorthodox Musical Instruments. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977.  (Has 4 pages describing homemade bamboo and metal instruments which may be the forerunner of early handchimes.)


Note:  This is intended as a guide only.  This list was compiled from information from Jerry Olson, Willard Markey, and by comparing the bells in my collection.  It is certainly possible to find a very old bell with more modern fittings, or ones that have been refurbished, retuned or polished smooth.


Marks left by file used to tune the bell = late 1600’s – mid 1800’s

Silver color = mid – late 1800’s

Lathe marks highly visible inside & out = 1800’s

Lathe marks visible, but casting polished smooth = Late 1800’s – Early 1900’s

Lathe marks barely visible, highly polished casting = Modern

Nickel plated = late 1800’s – mid 1900’s.  (Deagan or Mayland)

Clapper shaft:  

Flat/hand hammered = pre 1900’s (not always, my 150+ yr. old Dunn’s are lathe turned, while my Taylor’s are hand hammered.)

Round/polished smooth = 1900’s and up


Strong fundamental, less upper partials or overtones “wild” and not 12th as modern bells = late 1600’s – mid 1800’s

Spring cushions:

Leather or rawhide = 1700’s – 1800’s

Felt = anywhere from early 1900’s to present, but usually modern

Staple pins:

Leather, rawhide, or wood  = 1700’s – 1800’s

Metal = Late 1800’s – Early 1900’s

Nylon = Modern


Sharp = up to late 1800’s (sometimes into early 1900’s). 

Flat = Late 1800’s – 1920’s (see below).

Note:  If the bells appear to be in tune with themselves, but not necessarily to A440, “low,” or “high” pitch, they probably date from late 1600’s – mid 1700’s.  Also, Deagan and Mayland (late 1800’s – early 1900’s) produced sets of bells in both A-435 and 440.