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History of the Firm


Patentees and Manufacturers, The Butts, COVENTRY.

No more appropriate home could have been selected for the particular industry under notice than Coventry, which possesses in its magnificent churches some of the finest peals of bells to be heard in the Midlands. It is, therefore, within the fitness of things that Messrs. Harrington, Latham & Co. should have introduced within the city boundaries the manufacture of their now famous Patent Tubular Bells, which have secured universal commendation from musical experts as an economical and perfect substitute for bells for all purposes.

The firm was established a few years ago in The Butts, where they have compact and well-arranged premises, conveniently adapted for the work in progress. The building is divided into offices, show-rooms, and workshops, fully equipped with the necessary plant and appliances, and at the end of the yard is erected a pretty and attractively-designed tower, for giving effect to the sound of a peal of tubular bells and exemplifying the methods of hanging and striking.

The first show-room to which our attention is directed is fitted with a number of frames, from which depend specimens of the firm's make, for hall carillons, dinner gongs, etc. Hitherto, the great majority of these instruments introduced have been remarkable, chiefly, for the discordant noises emitted; we have, therefore, pleasure in commending to notice Mr. Harrington's ingenious invention.

The tubular bells, either singly or otherwise, furnish a most musical, yet thoroughly efficient dinner call or hall gong. As hall carillons, they produce a very beautiful effect, as their sound can be heard through a large house, but with so sweet a tone as to please the most fastidious ear. Another show-room, devoted to church bells, contains some fine examples of the firm's productions in this department. The Patent Tubular Bells consist of a series of metal tubes in suspension; these are harmoniously tuned, and, when struck, give forth notes of marvellous purity and sweetness of tone, comparable with church bells of very high quality. The sound is penetrating, yet perfectly musical and effective, and, though not quite equal in carrying power to that of heavy bells, is clearly and beautifully audible to a great distance in quiet or rural districts.

The tubular bells may be specially recommended as an economical substitute for the expensive bells at present in vogue, practical demonstration of their value and efficiency being furnished by the numerous testimonials received from numbers of church officials who have adopted the new method.

The following are among the advantages possessed by the tubular bells for the above purposes;-
1. Their tone is perfectly mellow and pure, whatever size is used.
2. They are only a fraction of the price of ordinary church bells.
3. They do not require a specially-constructed tower, there being no swinging motion, with its subsequent strain on the building.
4. They can be placed in any bell tower without necessitating any structural alteration.
5. They can be rung by one person, with cords as now usual.
6. They are not liable to crack, and cannot get out of tune. Every tube is accurately tuned to concert pitch.

Our illustrations will convey an idea of the different forms in which the tubular bells can be applied, and in the price list issued by the makers will be found full details of construction and all particulars of this novel and useful invention.

From an Old Trade Directory - (date unknown) -

HARRINGTON'S PATENT TUBULAR BELLS - for Churches, And for all Buildings where Bells are required.

TUBULAR BELLS are BETTER and CHEAPER than the old form of Bells "Peals" of Eight Bells Small Size, 120 pounds: Medium Size 150 pounds: Large Size, 200 pounds to 250 pounds.

For Testimonials and Prospectus apply to


From Another Trade Directory - date also unknown.

Tubular Bells are Better and Cheaper than the old form of Bell.
Splendid Gift for Memorial or Coronation Bells.


Peals of 8 Bells, usual size, 160 pounds; Large size 210 pounds to 260 pounds.

For testimonials and Prospectus, apply to


Harrington's first factory was in The Butts. It was not uncommon for firms established in The Butts to move into Earlsdon. The Butts is so named because it was where soldiers in the middle ages would have target practice with bows and arrows.The Butts was a main road into town (Coventry) from Birmingham which was a mere hamlet in the middle ages. As it was a main road, it soon became very built up and by the nineteenth century was very overcrowded abd disease ridden. Coventry could not expand due to the Lammas and Michaelmas lands which belonged to the Freemen of the various Guilds, so by the mid nineteenth century conditions in the town were disgusting to say the least. This meant that the wealthier factory owners and small business men (like the watchmakers) were very pleased and relieved to be able to move into Earlsdon, and altogether healthier spot to be, especially as the factory owners and samll business men tended to live above the shop then.

Earlsdon is now a suburb of coventry and in many ways, always was. Earlsdon was developed by the Coventry Freehold Land Society (a sort of early building society) in 1852 when they bought a plot of land almost two miles from the centre of Coventry and laid out eight streets with 250 building plots. Each plot had a water supply but no sewage. The plots were mostly bought by watchmakers who at that time were doing well.

By the 1860s the American Civil War and the removal of tarrifs on many imported goods (including watches) and the reluctance of the watchmakers to change methods of production, all contributed to the slow decline of watchmaking, but the skills of the watchmakers -- intricate precision work -- laid the foundations for the engineering skills in the machine tool industry and car industry. the decline meant that the growth of Earlsdon was slow and erratic until the 1890s when Earlsdon was incorporated into Coventry and a proper road built into the city.

Earlsdon now is still called the 'village' by some locals. Earlsdon still has a high street with enough shops to meet daily needs, there are three pubs in the main street, Earlsdon has the reputation of being a safe and nice place to spend the evening, so attracts folk from all over the wider area.

There are two churches -- Methodist and Church of England -- and Baptist and Roman Catholic churches just outside. There is a primary school. Earlsdon is considered a 'desirable place' to live so housing tends to be pricey.

-- from Sheila Adams, Earlsdon Research Group.


Earlsdon Heritage Trail by Mary Montes

'Can you tell me the present address of the Harrington Tubular Bell Foundry?' Such is a query that has been made even in recent years about a product made in Earlsdon some 90 years ago. That the bells, after many years of constant use are now only in need of some repair or attention, is proof indeed of the quality of their manufacture.

The Harringtons started making bells in the Butts in the 1890s, moving to new, more spacious premises on Clarendon Street, Earlsdon, in 1900. They made bells suitable for all purposes, varying in size from large ones suitable for churches, to small ones for use as door bells or dinner gongs. According to their advertisements the bells consisted of a series of metal tubes suspended from a wooden frame. 'They are harmoniously tuned, and, when struck, give forth notes of marvellous purity and sweetness of tone, the larger ones comparable with church bells of very high quality.' The most important factor, of course, was that they cost a fraction of the price of conventional bells.

They had to be thoroughly tested and of course meticulously tuned to give an harmonious carillon, probably only enjoyed by a few of their Clarendon Street neighbours. Harry Weston, some time Mayor of the city, machine tool manufacturer, philanthropist and outstanding personality, remembered hearing them with pleasure to the end of his life. He had been born on the opposite side of Clarendon Street and spent his early childhood there.

The first world war had its effect on Harringtons as it did on so many businesses, and by 1920 the firm had moved to smaller premises on Hearsall Common corner and we hear no more of their tubular bells. Their Clarendon Street premises were soon taken over by manufacturers of a then more popular commodity - bicycles, and the Trade Directory of 1920 tells us that the site is now shared by the Caesar Cycle Co Ltd, W. Jones, Cycle and Motor Exporter and the Stelfen Belt Co Ltd.

As the cycle boom was by now well and truly over, however, they were not there for long and soon moved on, either to other premises or possibly to the wall. Their place was soon taken by the Clarendon Pressing and Welding Company Ltd.

The Clarendon had among its directors A. Barnett as chairman with G.I. Francis as Joint Managing Director, both better known as makers of the more famous Francis Barnett motor cycles. Naturally therefore, the Clarendon made parts for motor cycles, sheet metal for mud guards and petrol tanks and tubular parts for luggage racks and so on. Increasingly they also made parts for the now booming motor car industry and for the textile company, Courtaulds.

Their advertising leaflet of the early 1930s states: ' We shall be glad to submit a quotation on receipt of blue-prints or samples, or we would call and discuss any sheet metal problem you may have for solution'. Their trucks turning in and out of their premises became a common sight on Clarendon Street, not always welcome by the neighbours, although the fact that they employed a small army of men and women slightly mitigated their dislike.

By 1962 after 31 years, it was time for the Clarendon Press to move on. They joined the Associated Group of James Motor Cycles of Pershore and the premises were vacant once again. The new occupants were to bring a very different line of business to Earlsdon.

The D.B.S. Furniture Company had been founded some years previously by two men, Alfred Holtom and Tom Calland as the Direct Bedding Supply Stores. Starting the business in Kenilworth, they moved first to Broad Street, Coventry before settling in Clarendon Street in 1962. Once there they expanded the business to include furniture for every room in the house, including the nursery. Since the death of the two founders, the store has been run by Alf Holtom's daughter and son-in-law.

It is difficult when standing in the showroom now, surrounded by lounge and dining room suites, bedroom and nursery furniture to picture it as it was 40 or so years ago, filled with huge, noisy presses and welding equipment, let alone a bell making foundry. In common with all the other local businesses it too has moved with the times, and apart from the drawback of enormous delivery trucks ploughing up the little Earlsdon back streets, at least it is cleaner and much, much quieter.


Harris and Harrington developed their tubular bell chime in 1884. The quality and tone of the chimes earned them a gold medal at the 1885 Paris Worlds Fair, and it prompted their purchase by many churches and opera houses.

Source -- Cowan Aucti


Tubular bells may have been used in France as early as the 1850s or 1860s, but in the English-speaking world, they got their start when John Harrington, of Coventry, Warwickshire, England, patented a clock-chime of tubular bells in that country in 1884. it was an immediate success, winning gold medals at Paris in 1885 and at Liverpool in 1886. Within a few years, Harrington's tubular bells were being used in England in both hall clocks and bell towers, different sized tubes were used for these different applications.

In 1886, Walter H. Durfee, an antiques dealer from Providence, Rhode Island, USA, met Harrington while on a business trip to England. Durfee had recently begun importing English longcase (or hall) clocks to the USA, while Harrington was a partner in Harris & Harrington, sales Representatives for a London clock maker, J.J. Elliot, Ltd.

Durfee and Harrington saw the possibility of using Harrington's tubes as clock bells, and soon Elliot was producing clock movements that could be used with Harrington tubular bells in longcase clocks. Durfee began importing these movements and bells to the USA and assembling them into high quality cases which he manufactured.

In 1887, Harrington obtained the first American patent for a clock chime apparatus, and assigned it to Walter H. Durfee. In the same year, Durfee sold his first chiming longcase clock. With the protection of this patent, Durfee had an American monopoly on clocks with tubular bells.

An early account states that "An exhibition of Tubular Bells was given at Providence, R.I. on October fourth and fifth, 1888. It was the first exhibition of these bells ever given in the United states, and was largely attended during the two days, enlisting special attention from prominent architects, builders and churchmen." Undoubtedly this exhibition was put on by Durfee, with support from Harrington. Publicity about this exhibition may have led to a visit to Providence by the Dean of General theological Seminary, who later that year gifted the Harrington/Durfee chime which still resides in the tower of the chapel of that seminary. It is not yet known whether this exhibition was held at the Providence church where a tubular tower chime had been installed some time before the Dean's visit.

In the same year, John Harrington obtained another American patent, which was also assigned to Durfee. An 1890 advertisement for tubular bells states that the English patent was held by Harrington, Latham & Co. of Coventry, England, "Sole Manufacturers," and that "Over 100 Sets have now been erected." It also stated that the U.S.A. patents were controlled by Walter H. Durfee.

The next milestone appears to have occured in 1894, when James E. Treat, of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, received an American patent for a tubular bell which was reinforced by an annular ring inside and/or outside of the top edge. Treat was an organ builder, and at about this time was managing the Methuen Organ Company, so it is possible that this patent was related to the use of tubular bells in pipe organs. However, the patent was assigned to United States Tubular Bell company, of which Walter H. Durfee was the president, and which shared the building occupied by the Methuen Organ Company, so this event may also indicate that about this time Durfee stopped importing Harrington's tubular tower bells and began manufacturing his own, via the U.S. Tubular channel.

source -- Alberts Antique Clocks.


The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal church

The chimes were a gift from Augustus Hoffman, dean of the Seminary from 1879 - 1902.

Dean Hoffman expressed his interest in chimes for the Chapel tower to William Bispham, the father of an incoming seminarian: "In the spring of 1888, I had several talks with Dean Hoffman. in the course of our conversation he expressed a great desire to get some definite information on the subject of tubular chimes and bells, which were then creating a great deal of interest in England, where they had been invented; and he asked me, knowing that I was going across the water, if I would investigate them and make a report to him on my return home, which I gladly promised to do."

William Bispham travelled to London in 1888 and recalls that "In the course of my stay in London, I drove with my son up to the Coventry factory and saw the tubes and heard them played upon, and was exceedingly pleased with their sweet musical tones. The Dean's interest in the matter was for the bells for the Chapel, and on my return I gave him a pretty full account of my experience and the results of my investigation, which were entirely favourable."

The Rev. Leighton Hoskins in an 1890 account of the Seminary wrote: "By the Dean's gift, there has been placed in this tower a chime of fifteen tubular bells, from the factory of Mr' Harrington of England." Walter H. Durfee of Providence, Rhode Island began importing Harrington's tubular bells around 1886 and obtained the patent for the chimes in the United States.

source --


The above pieces of data have been sent to Laurie Alexander in Australia by the Coventry Library and a local Earlsdon society. They were originally written by Carl Zimmerman see Tower Bells


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