Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 58

Handbell

1638 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
By tradition, small handbells used for funeral processions were usually cast in relief with an appropriate inscription and a date.

Ownership & Use
Small handbells were used by the parish clerk or sexton when the body of the deceased was carried in procession to the church for burial. The handbell would be rung at intervals to invoke all those who heard it to pray for the repose of the departed. Contemporary engravings depicting funerals in the 17th century show the sexton walking ahead of the coffin and carrying a staff and a bell.

Ownership & Use
This bell was found buried near Worcester Cathedral. It was cast in 1638, just before the Civil War of 1642-1646, when the city of Worcester and its cathedral were badly damaged. This bell may have been looted from a church or from the cathedral during the upheaval.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Bell metal (copper and tin alloy), with modern handle
Brief Description
Sexton's funerary handbell, copper and tin alloy with modern handle, England, 1638
Dimensions
  • Height: 14.4cm
  • Width: 15.6cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 06/06/2000 by KB Estimated height with handle ammended 6/6/2000 by DH
Marks and Inscriptions
'+MEMENTO+MORE+1638 (Decoration; around outside of bell; inscribed)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The parish sexton rang the handbell at the head of the funeral procession as mourners walked behind the coffin to church. The bell is inscribed '+MEMENTO+MORE+1638', meaning 'remember you will die', to remind the mourners to repent and prepare for their own deaths.(27/03/2003)
Summary
Object Type
By tradition, small handbells used for funeral processions were usually cast in relief with an appropriate inscription and a date.

Ownership & Use
Small handbells were used by the parish clerk or sexton when the body of the deceased was carried in procession to the church for burial. The handbell would be rung at intervals to invoke all those who heard it to pray for the repose of the departed. Contemporary engravings depicting funerals in the 17th century show the sexton walking ahead of the coffin and carrying a staff and a bell.

Ownership & Use
This bell was found buried near Worcester Cathedral. It was cast in 1638, just before the Civil War of 1642-1646, when the city of Worcester and its cathedral were badly damaged. This bell may have been looted from a church or from the cathedral during the upheaval.
Collection
Accession Number
1036-1898

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
Record URL