Information on the Blue Bell Inn Sign
Although the first sign shown below, located in Bolsover in Derbyshire, clearly shows a blue church bell it is not clear if the sign of the Blue Bell first illustrated such a ringing device or the blue bell flower. Certainly, at one time the Blue Bell in Henley-in-Arden once had the bell on one side and the flower on the other - as shown here with the pair of Flower's signboards. It is also thought that the sign could have originated in Scotland where signs are called Bluebells of Scotland, a popular song properly known as Bluebell of Scotland. The bluebell in Scotland is the harebell, not the wood hyacinth of the South. Whatever the source, the use of the blue bell is a heraldic sign.
Interestingly, a Bluebell pub at West Hoathly, West Sussex is named because of its proximity to the Bluebell line, a railway line run by enthusiasts since its closure by British Railways. Other Blue Bell inn signs on this page were photographed in Melbourne in Derbyshire and Ashby-de-la-Zouch. See also the notes for The Bell [below].
There's something about the bell which has made it popular with sign makers over the centuries. Perhaps it is because it is said that the bell speaks all languages. Certainly there is a religious connection because, historically, bells featuring on pub signs usually refer to both church bells and hand bells. So if you spot a Bell pub sign you will usually see a church nearby. In earlier times, it was thought that the sound of bells could protect the listener during a lightning or thunder storm. Another reason for the bell's prevalence in pub signs is the British have, traditionally, had quite a love-affair with the sound of them. Indeed, it was Handel who once claimed that they were the national musical instrument. Moreover, bells make an frequent appearance in some of the country's classic literature. For example, Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" includes the line 'He hath a heart as sound as a bell...' Not to be outdone, Keats used the line 'Forlorn! the very word is like a bell.'
Our attachment to bells starts at an early age. How many of you remember the prestige associated with being able to ring the bell at school? Unfortunately, it went to Jeffrey Archer's head because he once told The Daily Telegraph "I was allowed to ring the bell for five minutes until everyone was in assembly. It was the beginning of power." It is common to see a single bell. However, they do appear in many numbers and eight is a popular number because this is the amount in a peal. Blue is the most common colour of pub sign bells because it is the colour of hope.
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Blue Bell Inn Signs
This circular signboard for the Mansfield Brewery goes with a completely different theme. The Chesterfield pub had an illustration of four of the famous Bluebell Girls Dance Troupe. These were formed in Paris in 1932 by Dublin-born Margaret Kelly who had earlier danced with the Folies Bergère. They became one of the most celebrated dance troupes in the world.
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