One Year On

SallyIt is exactly one year ago today that regular Wednesday evening ringing practice started. We’ve come a long way in 52 weeks; four of the six ‘recruits’ we started teaching that day have become efficient and competent bell ringers and form a core part of the team.

We’ve also recruited seven others along the way – some more recently than others, so there are various stages of teaching and learning going on all the time!

Of course, getting the ringers up to speed wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable assistance from three experienced ringers/teachers from neighbouring towers.

At last night’s practice session, we raised a glass in celebration of the achievements of the band, and a toast to the future and augmentation of Ab Kettleby Bells.


Bell Tuning and Augmentation Progress

It has been a couple of months since the last update on the progress of the augmentation project. Slowly but surely progress is being made. Several volunteers have spent many hours in the bell chamber preparing and painting the frame - we've just got to put a final top coat on.

Meanwhile, at the foundry, our three additional bells underwent tuning in the foundry a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the new treble on the tuning lathe.



Treble Tuning

New number 2 after tuning

Number 2

And the new/old tenor upturned and ready to be tuned.


It is expected that these bells will be ready for installation by the end of June. The extra steel work for the frame and 'observation platform' has also now been completed and is ready to be shipped out to us for installation.

As part of the augmentation work, our existing three bells are going to be removed from the tower, as there needs to be a little bit of work carried out on them and the existing frame before we can get the new bells in place.

Photographs taken at the John Taylor Bell Foundry, Loughborough, courtesy of Nicholas Parr 

News from the Foundry

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

We’ve just received an update from the foundry on the state of our bells – they have now been moved to the tuning shop, but are waiting in bit of a queue. There are 8 other bells to be tuned first, so it is not expected that our bells will be looked at until just after Easter. The new headstocks have all been cast and are just waiting for their gudgeons to be fitted. The new section of frame has also been cast and will be machined to size very soon.

Meanwhile, back in St James’ preparation work continues – the frame has been receiving some attention in the form of brushing/rubbing down while we get ready to paint it. Also the ‘viewing platform’ which was installed directly onto the bell frame during the church restoration, has now been largely dismantled ready to be lifted into its new higher position to allow the new bells in.

First images of new bells

Our new bells were taken out of the sand last Thursday, and here is an exciting glimpse of them in their raw state. Some artefacts of the casting process remain – in particular the rough edges around the mouth of the bells. There is also some remnants of the bell moulds to be seen, caught between the raised pattern and inscriptions in various places.

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

The next step for the bells is a fettling process to remove the rough edges before they will be carefully tuned to fit with our existing three bells, and the new/old tenor.

Bell Casting

15 parishioners (including 6 Ab Kettleby ringers), 14 school children, and 6 other special guests toured the John Taylor & Co Bell foundry in Loughborough today, all leading up to witnessing the casting of our two new bells.

Our tour guide for the day was George Dawson, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience for anything you could possible want to know about bells - ringing, making, maintenance, etc. George's website can be found at

George met us all in the Taylor's Museum and took us through to the bell room just behind the museum. The room hosts a collection of bells from various different founders. The children were invited to take a hammer and strike each of the bells in turn. The differences in sound were explained and the concept of bell tuning was introduced. Taylor's had discovered that a bell has 5 notes made by different parts of the bell. Each part of the bell can then be tuned individually to provide the correct harmonic.

John Taylor Bell Foundry Workshops

From the museum we went over the road to the workshops, where our new/old tenor (see previous article 'Augmentation Progress') was waiting for us, prompting much discussion and excitement!

Ab Kettleby's New Tenor


A walk through the workshops to the woodshop and we were given an explanation of the different woods used in a bell tower - oak for the wheel spokes, ash for the wheel's soulplate and shroud because of its flexibility. Ash is also used for the bell stays.

From there through to the rope-shop where Paul makes new bell ropes from hemp, polyester and wool. He explained that polyester is used for the upper part of the rope as it isn't handled. The tail end is hemp which is much softer on the hands than polyester would be. Sallies are made from wool - which surprised a couple of our ringers. (Quite what they thought it was made of is somewhat baffling!)

On our way to the tuning shop, we stopped at a bell rigged up in the workshop for ringing, albeit without a rope. George demonstrated the mechanics of a bell being rung up, rung full-circle and then rung down again. A difficult thing to explain to people without being in the bell chamber when it's happening, so to have a rig that can people can easily see really helps to explain the mechanics.

Inside the tuning shop we saw the giant lathes used for turning and filing the bells in order to create a correctly tuned bell. George demonstrated the sound properties of different bell materials, which clearly explained why bells are made from copper and tin!

On the way back through the workshop, we arranged for our new/old tenor bell to be hoisted up into the air for a fantastic photo opportunity!




By now it was nearly time for the casting, so we all made our way back to the museum and up the spiral stairs to the foundry viewing gallery. There was a slight smokey haze, and a strong smell of hot metal - as you might well expect from a metal foundry, with furnaces melting metal ready for casting! The temperature of the metal was checked, and a bright stream of molten metal was poured out of the furnace into the waiting crucible.

Molten metal pouring into crucible

This was hoisted up and the dross floating on the top of the molten metal skimmed off onto the floor. At this point, Rev Sue said a few words and blessed the casting of the new bells; accompanied by some singing!

Rev Sue Blesses the Bell Casting

The crucible was then turned and the molten metal carefully poured into the waiting bell moulds! First the new treble

Casting the New Treble

And then the new number 2

Casting Number 2

Two new bells were born!

New Treble

New 2nd

Once the area had been made safe, we were invited down from the gallery to have a closer look at the bells and the casting, and to ask some questions of the bell founders themselves.

Finally, we had booked the foundry tower for some ringing after the casting, so those that could ring, and those interested in watching made our way to the foundry tower. It's a very light set of bells, so our inexperienced ringers were given the opportunity to try it out on their own first, before joining in with some rounds.

All in all a fantastic afternoon - a very interesting tour cumulating in the casting of the two new bells for Ab Kettleby. Two bells that will outlive all of those who witnessed it and should last for several centuries.


Leicester Diocesan Guild Quarterly Social

On Saturday evening (17th January), Ab Kettleby played joint host to the Leicester Diocesan Guild’s Quarterly Social event, with Long Clawson. (It was Melton District’s turn to host!) A contingent of 5 ringers from Ab Kettleby went over to neighbouring Long Clawson at 6pm and met with 30-40 ringers from all around the county. After an hour’s ringing of everything from rounds and call-changes to Yorkshire Surprise and Cambridge at Clawson, everyone made their way to Ab Kettleby to take advantage of a last opportunity ring our 3-bells as a 3! Cue methods such as Plain-Hunt Singles and Stedman Singles..!

By 8pm we had all made our way to the Sugar Loaf for a welcome drink and splendid buffet. Various donations of chocolate, wine and beer had been given as raffle prizes; cue frantic selling of raffle tickets to both bell-ringers and local villagers! We managed to raise £145 for the augmentation fund – and caused a bit of confusion in the process by using three books of raffle tickets, coloured Dark Green, Light Green and White!!

Augmentation Progress

Tenor for Ab KettlebyA visit to the John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry in Loughborough today, reveals that preparations for the new bell casting and augmentation is well under way. The bell which will become our Tenor was in the workshop, after making its way up from Gorran, Cornwall, just before Christmas. We took the opportunity to hoist it up on a crane and sound the bell, which you can hear in the video clip below.

Next door in the foundry hall, preparation work is taking place for the casting of the bells and the metal work we need to hang them. The ‘moulds’ are in the process of being created for the new piece of frame we need to hang the new treble; and the casting boxes for the new headstocks were all but ready for their metal. Also evident in the foundry hall were the ‘crooks’ (below) used to make the moulds for the new bells. These, of course, will be created in the next couple of weeks ready for casting day on 5th February.


Watch our Bells Being Cast


The Tenor

The bell-ringers in Ab Kettleby are very keen to get three more bells into St James’ church, to add to the existing three. We are therefore looking forward, with some considerable excitement, to the casting of two brand new bells for our tower which will take place in February!

We have a very limited number of spaces to watch history literally being made as the new bells for Ab Kettleby will be cast at John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry in Loughborough on Thursday 5th February 1:30 pm. Tickets are £10 each, on a first-come-first-served basis.

To reserve your place on this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, drop us a line via the contact us page, making sure you include your phone number and email address.