|Bells stored in the Music store, as well as bells from Sharpe the PRM also have bell ringing holdings from other prominent campanologists George Elphick and Ronald Clouston|
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, campanology is the study of bells encompassing the technology of making and playing bells and the history, methods and traditions of bell ringing. I was recently joined in the Museum’s music store by several bell ringing enthusiasts representing the Sharpe Trust. Frederick Sharpe was one of the World’s leading authorities on the history, technology and music of bells. In his lifetime Sharpe collected a unique body of material relating to bell ringing including an extensive library, bells, hand bells, photographs, records of bell tower inspections in the UK, bell ringing music and gear. He founded the Launton hand-bell ringers in 1951, the ringers still play and perform to this day. On his death in 1976, in accordance with his will, the Sharpe Trustees were set up. The trust act to continue Fred’s legacy as an outstanding campanologist and bell historian.
It was members of the Trust who arranged for Sharpe’s collection of bells, papers, manuscripts, photographs and books to be stored at the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) on loan after his death. An agreement was drawn up with Senior Museum staff and facilitated by the Museum’s ethnomusicologist and curator of the Bate collection of Musical Instruments, Hélène La Rue. In Hélène the Trust found a sympathetic ear, Hélène herself was a member of the Bell Committee. Hélène’s passion for all things musical made the loan to the PRM a good choice. Sadly after the unexpected death of Hélène La Rue in 2007 the specialist knowledge accompanying the music collections at the PRM was somewhat lost and the restricted access to Sharpe’s material was proving problematic.
The Museum has since worked closely with the Sharpe Trustees to return Fred’s extensive holdings back to the Trust where they will be catalogued and made an accessible and important resource to those interested in all things bell related. It is hoped that the collection will eventually be kept at the Bell Foundry Museum at the John Taylor & Co foundry in Loughborough, where plans are in hand to create a national centre for the study of bells. In the meantime the Sharpe papers have been transferred to temporary archival storage, but the collection can now be accessed by prior arrangement with Tim Pett (The Sharpe Trust Collection Secretary).
|Boxes of Sharpe packed and ready to be loaded onto the van|