By Sophie Towne
Something a little festive for you. Have you ever wondered what real jingle bells sound like on Santa’s sleigh? Of course you have! And if you haven’t I bet you’re wondering right now! Well today you have the answer. Click on the link below to hear what sleigh bells from the 1800s sound like:
The bells in the video are known as a triple sleigh bell set which were donated to the Museum of Norwich in 1931. The bells date from approximately 1800. They would have attached to the harness of a horse (or reindeer) pulling a carriage (or sleigh) and would alert people and animals that there was a horse coming.
These kinds of bells are also known as conestoga or hame bells. Hame bells relate to the hame or harness of a horse where the bells would be attached. Conestoga refers to the type of horse which would pull a particular type of wagon while wearing bells. In the 1800s horses wearing these triple bells would probably have been those nearest the wagon, while horses in the middle wore four bells and those at the front wore five. So it looks unlikely that Rudolph would wear these since he’s in the lead, perhaps more like Dancer or Vixen.
These kind of sleigh bells may also be the reason we have the saying ‘I’ll be there with bells on’. During the 1800s if a wagon got stuck and was freed by another passing team the liberators could be rewarded with a set of bells from the wagon they had rescued. Therefore it became an issue of pride for horsemen to arrive ‘with bells on’ to show they had completed a successful journey. Who knew these little jingle bells had such a broad history.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from the Norfolk Collections Centre!