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Whitechapel Handbells, 5-Octave Set (used)

Regular price $ 36,500.00

Special offering! This item is offered for local pickup at our store in Takoma Park, MD. Shipping within the continental US is possible, at an additional cost of around $1,000 (see further info below). Please contact us if you would like this item shipped. Also, please note that this bell set is currently located at a private residence in Silver Spring, MD. If you would like to view the set, please contact us to make an appointment.

House of Musical Traditions is pleased to present this rare, 5-octave set (61 bells total) of Whitechapel handbells, made in the original Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. This is the same foundry that made the Liberty Bell and bells for Big Ben. Whitechapel Bells are widely regarded to be unmatched in their excellence for handbell choir music. The art of handbell ringing was literally built on Whitechapels, starting about 300 years ago. The original foundry closed in 2017 and moved to South London, where bells are still made on the original patterns & designs by license agreement, cast in the same furnace from the original factory. A new 5-octave set is currently priced around $48,000 USD plus shipping and customs from the UK (the company Handbell World, who imports them to the US, advises to add approximately 30% for shipping and customs fees - so figure about $62K), and estimates about a 4-month wait.

This set came to us via a large estate collection from Joe Benaglia, a music teacher based in the Washington, DC area. He specialized in Renaissance and Baroque music, and the collection also included items such as a harpsichord, a few violas da gamba, crumhorns, kortholts and many recorders - all in very good condition. Since there is no production date on the bells and no purchase paperwork in the previous owner's records, we can't be sure of how old they are - but our guess is they were made in the 1970s. We inquired with the lawyers of the estate to see if he had been the curator of these bells for a church. After a thorough search through his personal papers, no affiliation was found. However, we have recently made contact with someone in our local handbell community, who is fairly sure this set may have once belonged to the well-known handbell ringer, educator and author Nancy Poore Tufts. Nancy worked with Mr. Benaglia at the Potomac School, teaching handbell choir, and retired in 1987. There were inquiries about selling her set of Whitechapels at that time, but she chose to hang onto them. She passed away in 2012 at the age of 102, and word is that nobody was sure what happened to her Whitechapels. Based on what we've heard we think there's a good chance these bells are what came into Mr. Benaglia's possession - but again, there is no supporting documentation to be found.

The range of this set is C3 - C8 (61 bells). The bells were carefully stored in four large "camp trunks," each bell wrapped in soft cloth. No cracks or chips were evident, and the leather handles were still in good condition. We had the entire set reconditioned, cleaned, and polished. No de-construction was done during the refurbishing. From our understanding, we believe these are "standard" handles and not the reinforced/stiffened ones that are currently a £34.20/bell upcharge to order. New soft bags are included with each bell. The sustain and depth of sound (overtones) on these bells are amazing! These will be a worthy lifetime investment for any handbell choir organization. 

Payment can also be arranged by organizational check or bank transfer. Payment plans can also be discussed - please inquire.

We would vastly prefer to arrange local pickup at our store in Takoma Park, MD, and are happy to hold the bells after payment is complete, until travel arrangements can be made. Shipping within the continental US is possible, but must be by special truck freight. The bells would be carefully packed inside their camp trunks. We estimate that special freight shipping within the continental US would cost approximately $1,000, fully insured.

International shipping may also be possible, but the buyer must account for significant customs fees and shipping (possibly around 30% of the purchase price).