Category Archives: Outings

Foundry visit 25th October

There are a few spaces left for the visit to Taylors Foundry next Wednesday – so if you weren’t able to commit yourself earlier but now find that you are available, please let me know as soon as possible! The plan for the day is given below (you can of course make your own travel arrangements):

10:26 – 11:39  Train from St Pancras International to Loughborough

Lunch at the Three Nuns, 30 Church Gate, Loughborough

1.30 p.m. Tour of Taylors Foundry & Museum

3.30 p.m. Ringing the foundry bells

4.50 p.m. bus to Stanford on Soar (St John the Baptist, 8 bells, 15-3-18 in F)

5 p.m. ringing at Stanford on Soar (to be met by June Stanley 07854 364124).

Pub in Stanford or Loughborough?

Return to Loughborough by bus.

(It may also be possible for some of us to join the evening practice at Loughborough parish church.)

21:22 – 23:05 Train back to London

If you want to come, you must let me know by Sunday 22nd – and if you want a pub lunch, let me know and I will email the menu.

Bookings to:

Foundry visit planned

Docklands Ringers are planning a visit to Loughborough to Taylor’s – for a tour of the foundry and museum, and an opportunity to ring on the foundry’s bells. We hope to be able to fit in another ring too during the day.

The visit will be on Wednesday 25th October (i.e. during half-term) and we will probably travel by train. The foundry tour will cost £10 (children 6-16 £5) – on top of this you will need to allow for your train ticket and a pub lunch.
This is a long time away, but the foundry tours are very popular and are booked well in advance, so please let Morag ( know as soon as possible if you would like to take part in this day out. We’ll then be able to confirm the booking with Taylor’s.

Visit to Whitechapel bell foundry

Whitechapel, a 500-year-old marvel in the 21st Century in the Heart of London

Pic 1

One Thursday morning, 18 September 2014 I cycled up to Whitechapel to witness something amazing: three new bells being cast. Once everyone (including nosy bell ringers) had arrived, Mark Backhouse, the Works Manager showed us through the courtyard and into the main workshop, where we took our place behind the almost invisible yellow line that serves as a sign of the health and safety zone. We immediately travelled 500 years back in time, as nothing had changed much over the centuries, except perhaps, that the furnace is now not fuelled by charcoal but oil. However, we wouldn’t witness that, only the roaring of the immense heat that – over 5 hours – melted 20 cwt of bell metal, mainly copper and tin.

Pic 2

The floor was covered in dust, while the walls were full of handcrafted tools, bell shaped gauges to form moulds, among them the one that had formed the famous Big Ben; human-operated, chain-driven pullies and lifting systems; a great tank of sticky moulding material (loam); an oven as big as a double room to air dry the moulds (this place does not need too much heating in winter). This is a craft that produces handmade bells from beginning to end using hardly any machinery. By the way, did you know that each foundry has their own shape of bells, their own individual sound? This is called the “Whitechapel profile”. And as Ben Kipling was kind to explain: “Actually there are a few slightly different “Whitechapel profiles”: “Whitechapel Old-Style profile”, “Whitechapel Mark I Simpson profile”, “Whitechapel Mark II Simpson profile” and “Whitechapel Mark III Simpson profile”. “The sound bow of a Whitechapel bell is typically slightly larger and taller than the sound bows of most other bells, and the exact curve of the waist and crown also varies slightly.”

Pic 3As we learned, the loam for the moulds is made up of sand, clay, horse manure, goats’ hair and water, to add up to a sticky, mud-like substance that is shaped to fill in the inside and cover up the outside of the wannabe bell. When the desired shape and size is formed using the locally crafted tool (the gauge), the mould is set into the drying oven. Any cracks appearing during this process will be filled in until the surface is perfectly smooth. You don’t want any excess metal.

Pic 4The mould is then sealed together and placed on an iron stands, ready for the metal. The metal needs 4-6 hours to melt in the furnace at around 1100 degrees Celsius, depending, of course on the size of the future bells. Believe it or not, there aren’t overly complicated mathematical calculations on how much metal is needed for the bells, it is in the instincts of the foundry workers and in the air and tradition of the foundry, I guess. Then it is poured into a huge “bucket” (crucible) that helps carry it to each mould.

Pic 5But before that, any impurities that there may be get scraped off the top of the liquid bell metal: only the finest bronze deserves to become a bell.

Pic 6And the magic started here: a water-like, glowing, fiery metal was poured into the mould letting out hot air and methane gas. It resembled a mini volcano. The powder on top helped retain the temperature to keep the top metal molten until the rest of the bell had begun to solidify. And another fun fact: the animal hair in the mould does not only keep the mould together but burns from the heat during the casting, giving its place to tiny air vents that allow extra pressure to escape and prevent the mould from blowing up.

Then they were left to cool. It can take 3 days, but if they are huge tenors, it can take up to a week or two. When done – it starts feeling like a recipe –, the mould is carefully lifted to reveal the newly cast bell.

Pic 7Pic 8The bell is then taken to the neighbouring workshop to get tuned. I never have thought it was this complicated, but they don’t only get tuned for one, but five notes, so that the overall tone will give the most pleasant possible sound, that will distinguish them from buckets. In the tuning workshop we learned from Ben, that as a bell gets thinner its sound gets to lower and lower notes. It is again not without importance which part of the bell the metal gets removed: as we saw on two old bells (so old that they were tuned with chisel and hammer), if you carve the inside of the sound rim, the note gets lower, whereas if you chip off metal from the lip, the note gets higher. Isn’t it interesting? Pic 9Tuning today is done with a machine, making it somewhat faster, but still a lot depends on the bell tuner’s perception of and satisfaction from the overall sound of the bell. Pic 10When the bell is trained to sing properly, it goes to be prepared to get hung in towers. In earlier times, they had loops or canons, cast together with the main bell, today bells are cast with a flat head in which holes are drilled that serve to attach a headstock to it. Such canons, and quite fancy ones too, can be seen in this picture with monkeys who want to “hear no evil” (or are they just complaining that the tuner neglected his job? I don’t know).  Pic 11

The craftsmen here are all wonderful people and pay careful attention to what they are doing, maybe that’s why Whitechapel’s bells are so outstanding across the world. I cannot thank them enough to let me witness such a magnificent event, but can only encourage everyone to visit the foundry and experience one of the few workshops where the products are still handmade after hundreds and hundreds of years of tradition and thus individually unique and marvellous.

Written by Eva Redei

Proofread and adjusted by Ben Kipling

Narrated by Mark Backhouse

Greg’s Oxfordshire Outing

A bit of careless talking by Greg at the last DRC AGM led him to be volunteered as organiser of an outing to Oxfordshire on Saturday, July 12th. As this was a trip to the countryside with little public transport and a tight schedule, car sharing was arranged for the attendees.

First up at 09.30 White’s of Appleton.

As Greg’s trip notes read ‘Visit the oldest bell-hanging company in the UK, and ring the ‘Balscote Ring’: Rings of 12 + 5: tenor: 1.2.16 in Bb.   No stays or slides’. White’s are not really a bell foundry, but they have lots of bells in various stages of being worked on. They also have a storeroom with a mini-ring up in its attic.

The Balscote Ring hiding in the attic at White's (photo by Andrew)

The Balscote Ring hiding in the attic at White’s (photo by Andrew)

I do not particularly get on with mini-rings as it’s a bit like drinking half-pints and I just don’t see the point. It turned out that Greg grew up in Appleton, and was aware of White’s as a boy, but had no interest in those days. So, a bit of unfinished business for Greg, and off we went to –

11.00-12.00 St Michael’s Church, Cumnor 8 bells (13.1.4 in F)

Ed did a very nice sketch of Cumnor, which I attach here

Graffito on the staircase at Cumnor (photo by Elizabeth)

Cumnor was a lovely old church with a wonderful wooden staircase as these pics by Elizabeth show –

Staircase at Cumnor

Graffito on staircase at Cumnor (photo by Elizabeth)

Graffito on staircase at Cumnor (photo by Elizabeth)


Ringing at Cumnor (photo by Nolan)

Ringing at Cumnor (photo by Nolan)

12.15-13.45 Lunch at the Rose Revived

An eponymous pub on the river with a nice view as captured by Ed –

Sketch from The Rose Revived pub (by Ed)

Sketch from The Rose Revived pub (by Ed)


14.00-15.00 St James’ Church, South Leigh 8 bells (10.1.26 in G)

After an excellent lunch, we resumed our itinerary.  I must mention Greg’s directions here – I don’t know whether this was Greg’s natural playfulness, poor typing skills, or just general silliness, but just about every direction had an error ‘turn left’ actually means ‘turn right’, postcodes were incorrect for satnavs etc.  I thought this added to the ambience as our cars scattered across South Oxon with people making different judgements.

15.30-16.30 Church of St Peter & St Paul, Long Hanborough 6 bells (13.1.24)


17.00-18.00 St Mary Magdalene Church, Woodstock 8 bells (12.3.24 in F)


Kings Arms, 19 Market Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1SU

We actually went to a different pub on the recommendation of the gentleman who let us into the church.  A couple of pints and we headed back to London in the cars.  An excellent day out to a part of the country that I didn’t know. Well played Greg for organising the outing and dealing with late cancellations and changes. Thanks to Chris and Andrew for organising the ringing.


p.s. as my memory of the afternoon’s churches is non-existent, pls send me text and I will add it.  Same for photos.

Chels-Bells – DRC Outing March 2014

Chels-Bells – DRC Outing March 2014.

It felt like a long time since the DRC had been on an outing, so I thought that I would attempt to throw together a day out for me and my fellow ringers. Some of you may know that I used to live in Chelsfield and work in Chislehurst, and to my shame, I had never rung at any of the local towers. Not having a car, the idea of trip to South East London and nearer Kent began to appeal.

An intrepid group met at the Wetherspoon’s pub in Lewisham at 9.00am to enjoy quite possibly the cheapest breakfast in existence. In a break with tradition, no drinks were ordered, but I must confess myself very impressed with the no-nonsense approach to swapping items on the breakfast menu.


(Typical example of hash browns)

Having eaten far too many hash-browns (I swapped the beans and an egg), we set off for our first tower, St Mary in Lewisham. To my immense relief, other people had turned up and we ascended the tower with vigour. Hundreds of steps later, we arrived in the chamber and Dom commenced the ringing. The rounds rang out and the latecomers arrived – beware parking in Lewisham!

We left Lewisham in high spirits and jumped into the waiting cars. Trisha kindly took an advanced party to Chislehurst as we were running a bit late; you can imagine our surprise when everyone else turned up at St Nicholas late and she was not there. Whilst we began the ringing, Trish’s lady of the dashboard took her and her lucky passengers on a lovely tour of the south circular, which I think must have been the highlight of the day for several people.

Chislehurst presented a challenge. Being a ground-floor ring, it was quite difficult to hear the bells, which tested our ability to ring using rope sight. Thoughtfully, the ringing area is screened off by a curtain, so whilst some rang, others took the chance to look around the beautiful church. Jonathan quickly learned Grandsire double and then rang a flawless plain course.


(Lunch in the sunshine, Chislehurst)

Lunch beckoned and we ambled en masse to the Bull’s Head. In an incredible stroke of luck, the sun shone and we found a table for 25 in a secluded secret garden just behind the pub. Orders were placed and, again, in a break with tradition, Pimm’s was the order of the day. An impressive volume of jugs arrived, although one question remained. Who was that cool, enigmatic man under the pergola picking at a ploughman’s? So suave, so mysterious so . . . Greg. Our final ringer had joined us!

With some walking in a slightly wonky line, it was onwards to St Mary Cray. It’s not often you get to ring in the middle of an industrial park, but if that sounds appealing, head to St Mary Cray. Nestled next to a dual carriageway and railway arch, the impossibly charming church sits defiantly in its garden. Whilst some rang, others enjoyed the sunshine. Jonathan rang a touch of Grandsire (we’re expecting 8-spliced next week!) and we all marvelled that the bells are hung on plain bearings. They go very well!

The final tower was now within sight, so the entire outing piled into Dom’s Micra (it was very intimate in the back) and rushed to St Martin of Tours. The sun began to set as the final bells sounded, but we acquitted ourselves well at St Martin’s and again very much enjoyed the opportunity to visit such a remarkable church.

The ringing finished, but of course, the outing had really only just begun. A minute’s walk away we pitched up at the Five Bells (a pub) and celebrated a mishap-free day. As it happened, this was not to be the last pub, but since everyone was drinking tomato juice and being sensible, I needn’t bore you with the details of what happened next . . .

The sun set on the day, and I would like to thank everyone who came along. It was a pleasure to welcome James and Alex from Lewisham, and Helen, who came along to our ten-bell practice at Stepney. Particular thanks go to Gill, Chris, Andrew, Trish and Dom for driving us to the towers and to Chris, Luke and Dom for running the ringing. If you’ve never organised an outing before, I can highly recommend it – give it a go and take us somewhere new!


(The ringers outside St Mary Cray, St Mary Cray)