Last Thursday, I had the good fortune to be able to photograph a working bell foundry.
John Taylor’s can trace its origins back to the middle of the 14th century. Indeed, while we were visiting, we saw a bell that had been cast in 1352 that had been returned for repair. Aside from the Latin inscription, it looked like other bells that were manufactured in the last 40 years, such is the longevity of the material and suitability to its use.
Taylor’s is the largest bell foundry in the world. They cast the largest bell in Britain – Great Paul, the 17 tonne monster that hangs in St. Pauls. But most impressively, they provided the bells that AC/DC used on the Hell’s Bells tour.
After an hour or two wandering around the workshop that tuned and repaired the bells, made the wooden wheels and twisted the ropes, the main event of the day was to see a bell casting. It is quite an event and there was an air of tension as we made our way into the foundry itself. It may have been an air of horse shit, as I understand that too plays a part in the traditional methods used.
After some testing of temperatures, the roaring furnace was turned off and several tonnes of molten bell metal poured into a crucible. From there, it was transferred by motorised hoist before being tipped into the casts that were buried in the sand floor.
It was a hugely photogenic process and it felt quite special to be able to witness it. The idea that those bells will be ringing out (over Aldernay) for centuries is quite something.
We are hoping to put together an exhibition of some of the lo-fi and film photographs that were taken on the day, but for now, here are a few of the digital snaps I took. As usual, click to see them on Flickr, then press L to make them larger.
I've been round a number of foundries in my years as an engineer, but never one as interesting as this one! I keep meaning to walk from Leicester to Loughborough along the Soar Navigation, visit the museum and then return via the Great Central Railway. I hadn't realised that it was still a working concern.