Since the 15th century, ship’s bells have played both a practical and symbolic role in the life of naval vessels and their crews. All good ship models must have a bell on board. All really good ship models should also have an ornate belfry – depending on the era of the ship model.
There is documentary evidence that at least 중국배대지 one English royal vessel, the Rodcogge de la Tour, 1414, had a brass bell “to mark the watches of the sailors”. Other mentions of the shipboard bell were on the British ship Grace Dieu about 1485. Some ten years later an inventory of the English ship Regent reveals that this ship carried two watch bells. Originally the bell was fixed to a moveable beam which was activated by a lever or a wheel to which was attached a bell rope that dropped to the main-deck. That the bell rope was not attached directly to the bell clapper suggests that, in those early days, the ship’s bell was not used to mark the passage of the hours and half-hours.
Long ago, time at sea was measured by the trickle of sand through a half – hour glass. The sand glass on the deck was usually next to a bell (ship’s strike), and the ship’s boy (called a Grommet) was responsible for turning the glass over, and ringing the ship’s bell at the same time, so that the helmsman could make sure he turned his glass at exactly the same.
The ship’s bell had many uses; to indicate the time aboard the ship and hence to regulate the sailors’ duty watches; for safety in foggy conditions; signaling; used in gunnery control; the Dutch Navy of the 17th century rang the bell as an order to open fire; as boat gongs indicating officers and dignitaries boarding or leaving the ship and one of the most memorable traditions for sailors and their families involves the use of ship’s bells as baptismal fonts for shipboard christenings (the name of the baptized child would usually be engraved on the bell).
Prior to 1600 the bell would have been placed on the stern deck.The ship’s bell is usually located forward at the break of the forecastle on ship models prior to the 18th century then moved to the after end of the fore castle deck. The ship’s cook (or his staff) traditionally has the job of shining the ship’s bell.
Bells cast from metal were first developed in the Bronze Age. The ship’s bell is usually made of brass or bronze, bright finished on the outside only and normally has the ship’s name and date of commission engraved or cast on it then filled in with black enamel.
The bell clapper and clapper pin are of a metal composition, with a suitable eye in the end for attaching the lanyard. There is a supporting eyebolt. The clapper of the ship’s bell would be supported by a bronze lug.