Bells of the Australian Bush  The History, The Makers, The Collectors
© Jinglestix 2022
Here is an overview of the history of animal bells in Australia.
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Who made them? Who used them? And why? The story of Australia's European settlement and the pioneering era cannot be known in fullness until one understands the significance of the humble animal bell. These tools allowed the settlers and drovers to manage their herds and flocks in a land of open plains and unfenced pasture. For almost two centuries, the clunk, tinkle and knock of these bells connected man and beast in a bond of interdependence. This website is designed to assist the reader to appreciate the significance of the bells as well as enhance the book Bells of the Australian Bush, written by Donald Cooney, and Paul and Eleanor Knie. The Condamine bell, shown at left, was made by A.H. Ormand. We know this because it bears the maker's stamp. There were a number of prominent makers who marked their bells, however a vast number of other unmarked bells also exist. These are known as 'cleanskins'. Bells of this type were made by hundreds of individual blacksmiths across the country and they vary in quality from rudimentary to very good. The bell era in Australia started with European colonisation and continued through the 1800s until the early 1900s. Some bells still remain in use today, but generally as novelty items or hanging from the belly of a rodeo bull. Prominent Bell Makers Samuel Williams Jones was accredited with making the first Condamine bell. His design was not completely original as his inspiration was from what he had seen in his youth in Britain. However, his bell was generally larger and more suitable for the Australian conditions, and became very popular with drovers and cattleman. Christy Andersen, Fred Andersen, Alf Ormand, James Ormand and Alf Ormand Jnr, Thomas Beckett continued in the tradition of the Condamine shape, whereas southern bell makers like August Menneke and Anthony Mongan preferred Pot and Kentucky-shaped bells. However, all makers listed here made iron bells and used identifying stamps on their products. Bell Shapes Bell shapes varied greatly, with the Condamines only one. Kentucky, Texas, Pot, Clucket and Canister were other iron bells that are common in collections today. Then there were the brass bells and these came in many shapes and sizes also. Most of these were imported from England where the foundry industry was well developed in the 1800s.