Bells to call the servants

U 17.150: Under a row of five coiled spring housebells [at No 7 Eccles Street] …

D 15.04: the wheezy halldoor bell clanged again

In both of the opening quotations, from Ulysses and “The Dead”, the reference to bells is specifically to kitchen bells (see video extract) that rang (and shook visibly) to tell the servants “below stairs” in Victorian times that their service was required.

Staff Call Bells (Wikimedia Commons)

The row of five bells at the Bloom residence at 7 Eccles Street indicates that apart from the doorbell there used (in the house’s heyday) to be several other rooms from which servants could be called. In real life Joyce’s friend J.F. Byrne lived at 7 Eccles Street with his female cousins, and confirms in his memoir the authenticity of this feature, which was obviously still functioning in 1909 when Joyce visited Byrne there.

There was no one in the house except my two cousins, whose bedroom was on the top back floor. I couldn’t think of rousing them with the clattering kitchen bell …

J. F. Byrne, Silent Years (1953), p. 157

Houses of the same type as No 7 but on the south side of Eccles Street and the railing of 15 Usher’s Island (the house portrayed by Joyce in “The Dead”) still show the remnants of the bell handle on the area railings.

Harald Beck

Eccles Street

Picture courtesy of Ian Gunn

15 Usher's Island

Picture courtesy of owner Brendan Kilty

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