We all met out outside the foundry, which in fact looked like a small Victorian shop and gave no indication of the industry behind.
Once inside we were shown round by a very informative guide who told us that this foundry was the oldest manufacturing company in Britain, having been established in 1570 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) and being in continuous business since that date. It has made the bells for Bow, St Clements, Big Ben, the Liberty Bell and the very large bell used at the 2012 London Olympics at the opening ceremony.
We were told of the process of manufacturing bells, from casting the moulds to tuning the bells to ensure the perfect match in tonal and pitch quality for each individual project. By a wonderful coincidence the bells that had just been cast were commissioned by St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon.
I’m sure Wimbledon WI members will be following the bells’ progress and eventual hanging (Especially Dulcie, whose daughter is getting married in that church in the spring (? not sure of the date).
We were then shown round all the various departments including the area where they make the bell frames that the bells are hung from.
We were then taken up some very steep and rickety old stairs to the areas where the smaller handbells are finished and leather handles fitted.
Everyone had a very interesting and enjoyable tour and all came away very much more knowledgeable about bells of all sizes and the way they are made.
Thanks to Lou Collis for the description and photos