Most of the largest sailing ships had at least two bells. A large bell would hang from a goose neck on the foremast, or on the break of the foredeck. This was used to sound the warning while drifting through fog or snow. The second bell would be aft by the helm, for sounding the watch and for shipboard functions.
Here’s a wonderful and early example of a ship’s bell still in its original cradle, also known as a hanger. It may have been a helm bell on a large ship or possibly a main bell on a smaller schooner. Either use would make sense.
It is made of bronze and has a fine tone. The clapper is machined steel and is a replacement. Undoubtedly, this bell was used without a clapper on board ship. This was common practice when the bell was mounted on the wheel box or the cabin top near the helm. The original iron clapper would be removed so the ferris metal would not interfere with the compass. Theere are numerous small dimples and dings on the outside of the bell, showing it was rung from the outside by being struck with a marline spike or some other tool.
The bell mouth is 8 inches (21 cm) wide. The whole unit stands 10 inches tall and is 11.5 inches wide. It is entirely bronze except for the removable, steel clapper. It will shine up nicely if you choose to do that, or you may leave it to age. I can only guess at its age, but I think it is over 100 years old.