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Friday 31 October 2014

Bell Casting

3 New Bells for Chearsley ~ The Die is Cast!

On Friday 17th October, three new bells, which will soon hang in the bell tower of St Nicholas’ Church Chearsley, were cast at the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in the East End of London, witnessed by a small group of parishioners, the Vicar and Churchwardens. It was a unique and awe-inspiring experience.

Whitechapel is the world’s most famous bell foundry, makers of Big Ben and the Liberty Bell, and more recently, the “Royal Jubilee Bells” which led the procession of boats in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee flotilla in 2012. They continue to produce and export bells throughout the world to this day.

The Foundry buildings date from 1670, four years after the Great Fire of London, and over the years, it has found itself in the midst of other dramatic events, not least of all when Jack the Ripper was committing his grisly murders in 1888, as well as surviving the Blitz during World War II.

Bell making is an old fashioned craft, not a modern production line process, each bell being individually made. Before going into the workshop to see our bells cast, we were given a brief lecture on the process leading up to the moment when the molten metal, a mix of copper and tin, is poured into the loam moulds. These are made of an interesting recipe of horsehair, sand, clay and manure!

All the inscriptions are pressed into the moulds at this stage so they are cast into the bells and will appear as raised lettering, and not engraved after the bells are made. The inscriptions are:

Bell 1

Elizabeth R
Three new bells were added to make a ring of six
in the year AD2014, the 63rd year of her reign
Revd Canon John Wynburne – Vicar
Alicia Howard and Joy Payne – Churchwardens

Bell 2

Patron Saint of children and this church
The children of Chearsley, past present and future

Bell 3

Donated by family, friends and customers
of “The Bell” in memory of Oliver Babington
1974 – 2012


As we entered the workshop, we were transported back in time. The traditional craft, though aided now by modern technology, has largely remained the same process over the centuries. The furnace had been fired up at 6.00 that morning, with metal reaching the required temperature of 1,150 degrees Celsius for casting at 11.45 am. An intensely focussed team of eight men, dressed in protective clothing and space helmets, barely spoke, as they concentrated on skilfully transporting the red hot metal from the furnace to each of our three bell moulds, then pouring a steady stream of glowing liquid with occasional dramatic flurries of sparks and smoke. It was extremely exciting, and moving too, knowing that these bells will reside in Chearsley for centuries to come.

During the next few weeks, the bells will be cooled and tuned to blend perfectly with our existing bells. They will then be transported to Whites’ workshop in Appleton, on the far side of Oxford, where the bell frame will be constructed and the fittings added. It is possible that a trip to Appleton may be arranged while the bells are there. Hopefully, they will arrive in the village in time to be rung at Christmas. Prior to hanging, they will be briefly displayed in the church for all to inspect! In early 2015 there will be a special service of dedication and celebration to which everyone will be welcome.

We still need to continue to raise funds – as our target display board shows, we are about £10,000 short of the total required. Please check out the notice boards and Chearsley website for future events. There has been amazing support for this project over the past two years, both from the local community and beyond.

A great deal of time and expertise has been freely given to making applications for possible grants – some successful, others not. Donations, large and small, have been received from the local community, including the Babington family and customers at “The Bell”, also from visitors to the church from all over the country, who have perhaps enjoyed a family wedding or a baptism at St Nicholas’, or just recall happy memories of times spent in Chearsley, plus the wider bell ringing community who see this as a worthwhile venture. “Thank you” to everyone who has contributed, and to those who have come along and enjoyed the various fund-raising events that have been arranged in the village –please
keep coming!

This remarkable fund-raising effort has not affected the regular charitable giving to which the PCC and congregation at St Nicholas’ is strongly committed – this year supporting Christian Aid with a door to door envelope collection and soup lunch, and the Gaza crisis appeal, The Children’s Society Christingle collection, Cystic Fibrosis and DEBRA carol singing collection, Florence Nightingale Hospice, Mix 96 Christmas toy appeal, Steppin Stones shelter for the homeless, and sending a cow and several goats to Africa.

A key element to this project has always been education, and it is wonderful to report that during the past two years, five adults and seven youngsters have been taught the art of bell ringing. When the new bells are installed their repertoire will be widened and their enthusiasm and commitment will be rewarded.

 If you are interested in seeing the fascinating process of making a bell,
there is an excellent U-Tube video filmed at Whitechapel, at:

Beryl's Blankets

Toy Service

Friday 24 October 2014