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Westport Methodist Church
bell photos

Westport United Methodist Church, Kansas City, Missouri, has in its tower the only known bell made by Caughlan & Piquett (David Caughlan and David Piquett) of Saint Louis.  Stylistically, both the bell and its fittings are very different from all later bells made by David Caughlan.

Westport photo 004 The bell sits in the corner of a well-screened belfry.  The two cast-iron support posts are bolted to the ends of a single foot timber which is fastened to the floor, and are held in position by brace rods which angle down to the left.  There is no wheel; instead a lever is bolted vertically to the yoke, just off center. (This tends to corroborate the church's tradition that the bell came from a steamboat.)  The bell rope is sloppily tied to the end of the lever, with the excess rope lying on the floor in the foreground.  The rope runs through a large pulley block near the floor at left, and thence down to the ground floor of the tower.  A long coil spring is also attached to the end of the lever, possibly to counter the weight of the bell rope.

The red paint on the bell is ancient, and has faded or weathered away unevenly.  Curiously, the fittings, which are much more susceptible to corrosion than the bell, have never been painted.  The white spots on the bell (and elsewhere) are splatters of paint from sloppy work on the belfry in the past.

The yoke, here seen in profile, is tapered and recurved; the ends of the yoke form the gudgeons (bearing pins) and rest in open slots (with closed ends) in the tops of the support posts.  The bell is supported by a single center bolt which passes through the body of the yoke; a support flange below the center of the yoke meets the flat top of the bell. Westport photo 005
Westport photo 006 As above, showing all of the bell but less of the yoke.

There is very little decoration on the bell - a shallow bead (barely seen in profile) on the top of the shoulder, a very heavy bead at the edge of the shoulder, a small bead below the waist (where the concave profile of the waist meets the convex profile of the soundbow), and a small step at the top of the straight lip. 

What here appears to be a shoulder band, more prominent on the left side than the right, is just the bottom edge of the inscription (which is shown in more detail below).

Westport photo 007 The cast iron support posts are very fancy.  Instead of having an obvious straight post, they are formed with a long S-shaped curve, thickest in the middle, with the ends curled into circles around solid five-pointed stars.  The bearing block is on top, and a foot plate (here invisible under the roofing material which floors the belfry) is on the bottom.  The dangling excess rope and the brace rod behind the support post largely obscure the fact that there is additional ironwork between the upper circle and the middle of the S-curve to carry the vertical load.
The maker's inscription consists of three sections of lettering, side by side.  In each section, there is one word in a straight line at the bottom, one or two words arched over the top, and either a space or a few characters in the middle. 

Here the center and right sections are visible, but most of the left section is obscured by the yoke. 

The following three photos show the sections more clearly, in order.

Westport photo 020
This photo shows the first (leftmost) section of the maker's inscription:

CAST BY

CAUGHLAN

There is an ampersand (&) after "Caughlan", almost hidden in the shadow of the yoke (see next photo).

Westport photo 011
The center section of the maker's inscription:

ST.. LOUIS
MO..
PIQUETT

The T of the abbreviation for Saint is a small capital letter raised above a pair of periods (..).  Similarly the O of the abbreviation for Missouri is a small capital letter standing on a dash (-) above a pair of periods (..).

Westport photo 010
The rightmost section of the maker's inscription:

BELL & BRASS
1853
FOUNDRY

At the very top of the photo can be seen the cracked remains of a thin wooden pad between the top of the bell and the flange of the yoke.  Such pads were often used by bellfounders, to compensate for irregularities in the metal surfaces or to absorb vibration or both.

Westport photo 008
Westport photo 028 Side view, showing the positions of the brace rods and counter-spring more clearly.  Even with the counter-spring, the weight of the rope is such that the bell does not hang straight when at rest.  (A lighter rope would have been quite adequate for a bell of this size.)
Westport United Methodist Church Westport photo 018


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This page was created 2004/12/21 and last revised 2004/12/21.

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