The Whitechapel Bell Foundry open day, held this year on Saturday 1st September, was a big hit with staff and visitors alike. The visitor route through the foundry was designed to more-or-less follow the production process from the moulding shop, where moulding was in progress for four carillon bells for the USA and where several bells cast the previous week but not yet tuned were on display. Passing through the door beneath the original moulding gauge used in the making of Big Ben brought you into the the headstock turning and fitting shops and onto the blacksmith's area where clappers are forged and repaired. The frame building area contained a steel foundation grillage for the frame at Little Horsted and a single bell currently on test for St. Paul's Catholic Church, Ilford. Also set up in this area was the Lichfield Mobile Belfry, assembled and staffed by the Lichfield ringers where demonstrations of change ringing were given throughout the day.

In the sand foundry area were moulds and displays showing the process of handbell moulding and casting, while upstairs in the handbell workshops, visitors were shown how handbells are tuned and assembled. Back downstairs in the main tower bell tuning area, our head tuner, Nigel Taylor, held forth on the principles of bell tuning, including unequal temperament and the various systems he has been using to incorporate this in bells tuned at Whitechapel over the past year or so. Interesting, but quite mathematically technical, this was particularly appreciated by visitors who had studied musical theory academically.

The Dining Room
The dining room

New attractions this year included the Library (which houses the Foundry's books and records, some dating back to the 18th century, and memorabilia of the Hughes family, who have run the business since 1884) and the recently restored dining room, which gave a glimpse into one period of the long and historic past of the foundry buildings, and performances in the drawing room of solo handbell-ringing by Sandra Winter, accompanied on the piano by Jennifer Hughes. An area which proved particularly popular was the front museum display area. One of two areas of the Foundry which is open to visitors all year round, this has recently been given a major overhaul and the number and quality of the various displays greatly increased. The other area is, of course, the gift shop which was very busy.


Ring of 8 for
St. Paul's Methodist
Church, Houston

Early in September one of our bellhangers, Peter White, travelled to America to supervise the installation of a new change ringing peal of eight bells at St. Paul's Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Pictured above in a photo taken after initial fabrication at the Foundry, the ring is tuned on the five tone principle in the key of G and has a 3'-3" tenor weighing in at 1235 lbs. Following successful installation, the peal was test rung by local ringers.

This was one of several major rings supplied to the US by Whitechapel in recent years, and the latest in a line stretching back to when we supplied our first bell to America in 1702.

FRIDAY 14th SEPT., 11pm

At 11pm today, as in much of the rest of the world, work at the Foundry stopped and we observed a three minute silence in remembrance of all those killed in New York and Washington DC following the appalling events of Tuesday. The silence ended with the tolling of a bell for one minute in the Foundry yard. Our own Managing Director, Alan Hughes, is currently stranded in the US as a result of the subsequent flying restrictions. Our thoughts and our sympathies go out to our American friends at this awful time.

Whitechapel Bell Foundry would like to thank all those who contributed to making the day so enjoyable including all who helped run the event, and, of course, everyone who visited on the day.

News Archive:
Historic Finds at the Foundry
Open Day 2000 (with photos)
Masham and the Millennium

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