Crotal Bells…

Crotal Bells

Although i always misspell the word Crotal by substituting the A for an E, i do love finding these chaps, they are always a welcome find, disappointing when the are broke, but that happens when you consider that they have been dragged around the soil and thrown around for a hundred and fifty years or more… so what can we say about them and where does the name come from, the word Crotal comes from the Latin word “crotalum”, meaning a bell or rattle, which is from the Greek “krotalon” meaning a rattle or a little bell, Crotal bells were used on animal harnesses, mostly horses with the bells  used on sheep or cattle usely being a traditional bell shape, the earliest crude examples made from hammered metal sheet date to the 13th century but by the early 16th century one-piece cast bells were common, with a number of foundries making them with the popularity being in the 1700’s through to the late 1800’s

The bells shown here are all a copper alloy bell cast in a single operation and with its iron pellet in situ – after some gentle cleaning it still rings. The integrally cast suspension loop, is an irregular rectangular shape with chamfered external corners and with a circular drilled hole. This feature helps date it to the 16th /mid 17th century (later bells used cast lugs with a rectangular hole which eliminated the need for drilling). There are two circular holes in the top half of the bell  – the holes, are often mistaken as part of the process of making the sound, which is wrong and are only part of the casting technique., with the sound being produced by the slit or bow in the lower half and consists of two circular holes joined by a slit…

Why were these bells used ? well the two trains of thought i subscribe to are 1… being a bell they warded of evil sprits, in the field, as most fields were small with plenty of hedgerows and trees, or on a cold, damp track, with overhanging trees and tall hedges the mind of the carters would stray to the sound of silence broken only by the wind howling, or whistling through the hedgerows and through the tree tops, with animals crashing through the undergrowth to escape the horse and cart, but by running away and not being seen by the horseman, it was having the oppisate effect on the carters mind, hence eval sprits…  {-thats my favorite reason-}

or reason number 2... again tall hedgerows, trees and woodlands, you could not see or maybe hear another horse and wagon or a solitry rider and these bells rang out to give warnings that there was a horse and cart, coming towards you…



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