This bell was brought to England by my great-uncle, a British army officer. The plaque beneath the bell reads "Found in a fetish house in Coomassie during the Ashanti Expedition 1895-6". I imagine the bell was used by the fetish priest, whether to call the faithful or as an object of worship I couldn't say and I suspect "found" should read "stolen from".
I don't know for how long the bell had been in Kumasi. It has an inscription: "Amor vincit omnia Ao 1650". My internet research threw up two interesting citings. In 1997 a bell inscribed "Amor vincit omnia Ao 1625" was found off Galle in the wreck of a Dutch ship that sank in 1661. A 1975 article in 'African Arts' describes a stool in Upper Volta with two brass bells, one inscribed "Amor vincit omnia AD 1650". From these references I assume the bells were not that rare. Most of the history of the bell is unknown to me (where was it made? how and when did it get to Africa?) but it is good evidence of European trade expansion in the 17th century and of British colonial adventures in the 19th century.
Today this bell, inherited from my grandmother 30 years ago, hangs in our hallway and we use it to summon people to meals.