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.


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.

New Tenor

We have been sent this photograph of our new tenor bell just after it was removed from its existing installation at Gorran, Cornwall. The bell will be taken to John Taylor & Co in Loughborough this week to be checked and tuned if necessary ready for hanging in St James’ before Easter.


Gorran's No 5, soon to be Ab Kettleby's No 6.

Gorran’s No 5, soon to be Ab Kettleby’s No 6.

With thanks to Bob Thornton of Gorran for the photograph.

Target in sight

Bells at Ab KettlebyThis week sees news that Mars in the Community have awarded us a grant of £638 towards the augmentation project.

Along with other recent private donations, we now have over 90% of the funds secured to hang the new bells in the tower.

Augmentation Update

News on the augmentation appeal has been a little absent on the website of late, however, quite a bit has been happening in the background!

Bells at St James' Ab Kettleby

We have been awarded a couple of very significant grants. Leicester Diocesan Guild’s Bell Restoration Fund have very generously granted us £2,000 and East Midlands Airport Community Fund have awarded a £1,000 grant for the project. Meanwhile, in early summer, the Barbara Welby Trust had promised a £1,000 donation to the fund, which we gratefully received in October. Added to that, is an amazing £2200 from Captain James’ 100 mile bike ride, and £300 from the Sharpe Trust. All in all, October was a bumper month!

That puts us within 25% of our fundraising target for the fixtures and fittings. Two of our three additional bells will be new bells, the funding for which, is secure from individual donors. The exciting decision was therefore made to place the order for the two new bells as there is a few months’ lead time before they will be cast.

Confirmation was received this week, that the casting of our new bells will take place at John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry in Loughborough on Thursday 5th February 2015. Our new tenor should be in the bell foundry in Loughborough by Christmas ready for a tune up. As long as the remaining funds for the fixtures and fittings are in place at that time, the hanging of the bells should therefore take place during March and we could be ringing a new peal of six bells in time for Easter!

The casting of our bells may be viewed at John Taylor & Co., but numbers are limited – keep an eye on the website in coming weeks for details of how you can be there to witness history.