The Development of the Bell Tent

Bell Tent History

Have you ever wondered how this most British of tents came about?

The origin and style of the bell tent was a little different from the bell tents we use today.

The first patented bell tent predecessor was the Sibley tent. Invented by military officer Henry Hopkins Sibley and patented in 1856.

Although conical in shape it differed greatly from modern day bell tents resembling and having many features of the Native American tipi with a smoke hole at the top and fire pit in the centre. It also required no guide ropes as it was secured to the ground with the use of pebble ties and 24 wooden pegs at the base of the canvas.

Where it differed greatly from the tipi was in its practicality. A traditional Sioux tipi of a similar size (18 ft) would require 12 wooden poles (larch spruce, fir, cedar…) to form a tripod on which the canvas sits. The Sibley bell tent however was designed to use only one central metal pole, vastly reducing weight, set up time and immeasurably increasing maneuverability.

The tent was put to the test when 44 thousand Sibley tents were used during the Utah expedition (a confrontation between the Nauvoo legion and the United states army, otherwise known as the Mormon war or Mormon rebellion)

As holder of the patent, Sibley was due to receive $5 for every tent made ($220 thousand dollars for this one campaign!)

However, following the outbreak of civil war, Sibley’s decision to resign from the United States Army in May 1861 (in order to join the Confederate States Army) cost him dearly.

Despite a long legal battle, Sibley did not receive a dime for his invention and patent of the Sibley tent.

Although Sibley was the first to patent a conical tent in 1856, it is not the first time a conical tent was used to house troops in warfare. For the first appearance of what has now become the bell tent you have to go way back to the Byzantine army to the reign of Emperor Maurice, 582 – 602 A.D.

Bell were also used widely in the Crimean War and featured heavily in the now famous Zulu conflict. Most recently Bell Tents were used in the First World War but they were most definitely not glamping. Tents (Bell tents) accommodation being:

15 men to a tent, Sergeants 7 per tent, WOs 5 per tent, Officers 3 per tent,
Generals, Colonels and CO’s 1 per tent.

Initially the tents were in unbleached canvas but eventually they were died an olive green and then given camouflage pattern.

Here are Brook Bell Tents the bell tents we use have been brought up to date with new features for comfort and durability. Yet, one thing we have made sure of is that we have not changed is the cool appearance of a timeless classic.



Bell Tent in use During Second World War

First World War Camp of Bell Tents 25th September1914 Bell Tent in use During Second World War


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