Frequently Asked Questions

Malmark            Schulmerich            John Taylor          Whitechapel

What is an English Handbell ? What is a Handchime?
What is a Malmark Handbell? History of Handchimes.
What is a Petit and Fritsen handbell? Handbell/Handchime Loan Programs.
What is a Schulmerich Handbell? What is a Bell Plate?
What is a John Taylor Handbell? How do Purchase Handbell/handchimes?
What is a Whitechapel Handbell? Frequencies of Handbells?
Are their other handbell manufactuers? Comparative Weights of Handbells?
What about Music for Handbells/Handchimes? History of Handbells

What is an English Handbell ?

An "English Handbell" indicates the type bell, not the country in which it is manufactured.  There are two major manufacturers of handbells in Great Britain and two in the United States.

An English Handbell is a tuned instrument, comprised of as many as nine octaves of tones.  The bells are tuned chromatically.  The clapper (striker) mechanism is attached to the bell to constrict its movement to one plane, forward and back.  The clapper assembly may be stationary or adjustable to change the timbre of the bell.

Tuning is a critical part of the manufacturing of the English handbell. Whereas the Dutch handbell, such as Petit and Fritsen, is tuned with the upper partial 10th being a minor third, the English handbell is tuned to the major 12th.  Each of the manufacturers has a unique formula for emphasizing or de-emphasizing the harmonics to produce their unique sound.

English Handbells have either leather or plastic handles.

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Malmark, Inc.  --  Handbell Manufacturer
Bell Crest Park
P.O. Box 1200
Plumsteadville, PA  18949
215-766-9762 (fax)

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Schulmerich Bells -- Handbell Manufacturer
Carillon Hill
P. O. Box 903
Sellersville, PA  18960-0903
215-257-1910 (fax)

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John Taylor Bellfounders, Ltd.
The Bellfoundry Freehold Street
Loughborogh, Lecestershire
LE11 1AR England
011 44-1509 212241
011 44-1509 263305 (fax)

Documentary evidence shows that Robert Taylor, 1759-1830, having been apprenticed to an Edward Arnold, took over his (Arnold's) bellfoundry business in St. Neots, Cambridge, in 1784.  By 1786 Taylor was in full ownership of the St. Neots foundry, sending his first complete ring of five tower bells to St. Mary's Church, Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, that same year.

In 1821 Robert moved his wife and family, only three of his six children survived infancy, to Oxford.  It was left to the younger son, John (1797-1858) to continue the family bellfounding tradition.  In 1824, John Taylor encouraged the move to operate a foundry in Buckland Brewer, North Devon.  He married in 1825.  It was here that John William Taylor I, (1827-1906) was born.

On his father's death, John William I managed the company successfully for many years, extending the site to mould and cast Church bells.  A fire destroyed this enlarged foundry in 1891, and when rebuilt, four new furnaces were included in the re-development which became the largest in the world.

John William I and his son were responsible for much research and experimentation and eventual understanding of the True Harmonic Tuning Principles which accurately align the partials of a bell.  By this time, John William II (1853-1919) had taken day to day control of the company.

Paul Lea Taylor was born in 1914 and naturally followed in his father's footsteps, becoming the fifth generation of Taylor to further the art of bell making.  Through the war year and following, Paul, his Uncle Edmund Denison and his brother Pryce worked to ensure the company remained successful.

Today, Taylors remains steadfast and resolute in our determination to warrant the worldwide reputation we enjoy, a reputation that rightly acknowledges our expertise and our traditional skills as well as technical and innovative development.

Product Range

Supply and installation of tower bells and Carillons.  Bells weighing from a few kg's to 20 tonnes are availble to client specification.  Peals with as many as 60 bells are produced, and may be played with mechanical, electrical, or electronic mechanisms all of which are provided by Taylor's.

Bell frames, Fittings, Headstocks, Bellropes of natural flax with all wool salleys (handmade).

Five chromatic octave range of traditional English handbells, 29-C-01c  (C3-C8).

Custom-made carying cases for handbells.

Longcase, domed and french bells are supplied "as cast" or tuned and polished to clock repairers.

Another first is the UK's only bell founding museum.

Retail commodities include literature, a variety of bells, jewelry, CD's, mugs, ties, paperweights, and children's souvenirs.

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Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Ltd.
32 - 34 Whitchapel Road
London, England  E1  1DY
011 44 171 247 2599
011 44 171 248 8598 (24 hrs.)
011 44 171 375 1979 (fax)

telephone as of April 22, 2000  --   +44 207 247 2599 and fax +44 207 375 1979.

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Petit & Fritsen Bells  --  Holland

Postbus 2 - 5735 ZG Aarle-Rixtel The Netherlands
Tel. 31 492 381287  -  Telefax 31 492 383195

Paul wrote about this reference:  Subject: Which bells to buy??
Message-ID: <>  (Handbell-L)

Newbies (and others) can find quite useful somewhat edited info on this topic at:

Jerry Olson wrote:

GIA Publications in Chicago is a P&F rep. Call 1-800-GIA-1358 or 1-708-496-3800 and ask for Ed Harris.

Petit and Fritsen no longer make handbells, but they may be contacted at

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What is a Petit and Fritsen handbell?

Petit and Fritsen is a foundry in Holland that has produced handbells for a number of years.   According to the definition of "What is an 'English' handbell,"  the Dutch bell can be classified as an "English" handbell.  It meets the qualifications of handle, clapper assembly, retaining springs, etc. and it is rung in hand.

However, the Dutch bell is tuned differently from those manufactured in England and the United States.  The second tuned overtone is the minor third an octave higher (the 10th), rather than the major (perfect) 12th, which gives the Dutch bell a distinct tone, more similar to the tone of a tower bell than to the other handbells.

This difference in tuning causes serious conflicts with harmonic structure when played at the same time as bells manufactured in Great Britain and the United States.  At times, the P & F bells within a set appear to be out of tune and may cause false tones to be percieved.   I recall vividly correcting a bass ringer, hearing a Bb 4 in the key of C.  He was ringing a G4.

Many groups today are using Petit and Fritsen handbells for a change of timbre.  It is a great way to create an echo effect, particularly if the second group is remote from the first.  P & F bells are also used as a melody instrument over the accompaniment of English handbells or chimes.  Change Ringing is another alternative to begin a program or as a contrast within a selection.   Ringing P & F bells "off stage" creates a pleasing effect.   Because of the tone and the tuning, P & F bells are effective for outside ringing.

We  heard directly from Petit and Fritsen that they were no longer manufacturing handbells.  However there are companies that still advertise their sale and may have sets in stock.  There are countless sets of P & F handbells in closets around the world, however, that have been replaced by other sets of handbells through the years.   A note to Handbell-L  or BellTalk  requesting information on purchasing P & F bells may result in a lead.   You may also want to check the classified advertisements in OVERTONES, the official magazine of The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Inc.

Website for Petit & Fritsen is

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Comparative Weights of Handbells?

Check out these web sites by Paul Kingsbury and Paul Schaper for more information:

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Frequencies of Handbells.

Helmuth Litfin  has produced a chart of the frequencies of handbells.  It  can be found at

Helmuth R. Litfin

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What is a Handchime ?

AGEHR, Inc. states:  The handchime is a metal tube, most commonly an aluminum extrusion, slotted and cut to produce a musical tone.  The length of the slot in the tubing determines the fundamental pitch which is the clearly dominant tonal element, while the length of the unslotted portion (that which is held in the hand) is selected and fitted with a plug to provide substantial reinforcement of the tonal frequency produced by the slotted portion (the tines).  The clapper mechanism is externally mounted and strikes the tube at the predetermined point to produce the desired pitch.

When rapidly moved forward, the hammer strikes the tube which resonates a tuned frequency.  Each Handchime is of different length, therefore, different pitch. A set of 13, 25, 37 or more handchimes, chromatically tuned, comprise as set.

Many styles of music may be produced with handchimes.  The sustained, lush tone lends itself to slower tempos.

For more on Handchimes, click on  Handchimes.

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Handbell/Handchime Loan Programs.

Handchime Loan Program Scholarships:  Several Areas of AGEHR have loan programs of sets of Handbells and/or Handchimes for beginning goups in their Area.  The loan programs are usually restricted for schools or beginning organizations for a limited amount of time.  Each Area has its own guidelines.  Contact information can be found at faqloan.htm.

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How do I select a Handbell/handchimes to purchase?

At the present time, four bell manufacturers produce handbells:  Malmark, Schulmerich, John Taylor, and Whitechapel. The first two are in the United States and the last two are in Great Britain.  There are three manufacturers of handchimes, Malmark, Shumerich, and Suzuki.   Suzuki is in Japan.  Each of these companies are reputable and stand behind their products.  Each has representatives in the United States and multiple maintenance sites.

The best way to select a handbell or handchime is to request a demonstration. It would be to your advantage to arrange a comparison demo, that is, have representatives present at the same time with a set a bells.  Seeing, hearing, playing, and having an explanation of the benefits of each product will avoid the "lapse of memory" we often have when a new timbre replaces the old.

If this is not possible, visit several bell groups with different bells/chimes to make your comparisons.  This can be easily done by attending a workshop or festival.  Directors and ringers are most anxious to demonstrate and explain why they like their bells.  They are also willing to tell of any problems or deficiencies they have had.

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What is a Bell Plate?

A Bell Plate is a tone generator manufactured from a flat piece of metal, shaped like a bell, on which a striking mechanism has been attached.  Its tone is not unlike a handbell or handchime but with a different quality.

Bell Plates are considerably less expensive than handchimes and handbells.  They are sometimes used to begin a group when economy is a controlling factor.  They are also used as a contrast in tone and timbre to handbells and handchimes.

Many handbell techniques may be taught and used with Bell Plates, making this product an inexpensive way to introduce handbells/handchimes to beginners.

Bell Plates are manufactured in Great Britain by  __________  and are available through suppliers in the United States.

Check out the bell plate web site:

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What is a "Silver Bell?"

Other than those referred to in the popular Christmas song, "Silver Bells," they are a limited edition of hand(tone)bells manufacturer about the time of the silver anniversary of AGEHR, Inc.  (1979).

The bells are cylindrical in shape and have a tone more simular to a handchime than a handbell.

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What is the origin of the name "Malmark ".

The common explanation of Bell Lore is that the name "Malmark" is a concatenation of shortened names of the two people most responsible for starting Malmark:       Jake Malta  &  Willard Markey

Makes sense, doesn't it?

But it's wrong.  I have heard (and Dick Crawford can back me up) that  Jake founded Malmark before Willard came into the picture.  Jake wanted something that sounded classy, something like "Halmark."  Hence, "Malmark."  (Jason Tiller)

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What about regular maintenance of handbells?

Periodic maintenance is desirable and necessary to keep handbells/handchimes in top condition.   Most routine maintenance can be handled by the director or ringer in the group.  Minimal tool kits are available and probably were included with the bells at original purchase.

An Instruction Manual on maintenance come with the original purchase, outlining proper care and troubleshooting problems that may occur. Each of the manufacturers have maintenance programs available.   These manuals may also be found on the internet at:

John Taylor
Petit & Fritsen
All manufacturers also have representatives who will work with you to refurbish your bells or assist in returning them to the manufacturer for complete overhaul when necessary.

There are a number of independent services specializing in bell maintenance.  Members of the Handbell Industry Council offering this service are listed in the HIC 1999-2000 Buyer's Guide.  A copy may be secured from The National Office of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Inc. or call 1-800-878-5459.

You may wish to check with another handbell director in your community/area for assistance and/or other sources.

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Matters of the Physics of Handbells

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If you have questions you feel should be included in this FAQ, contact .  It will be helpful if you will state the question similar to those above, and if possible, give a short, definitive statement to answer the question.  The editor will   review your question and answer, consider whether to include the question, and amend as deemed necessary.

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Revised: November 6, 2000.