The Bells

By Conor Meehan

Week 14 kicked off with a visit to the legendary Whitechapel Bell Foundry which has been casting bells of all shapes and sizes since 1570, including the famous Big Ben. This is a craft of immense precision which continues to the present day – Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the bell which rang out at the beginning of the London Olympic Games.

Alan Hughes and Scholars at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Alan Hughes and Scholars at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The Scholars were shown around the entire foundry by the managing director, Alan Hughes who shared his vast knowledge of the craft process with us. This tour also included a run through of the bell and bell frame inspection that would be carried out in a typical church. We were on the look out for tell tale signs of ageing, damage, corrosion and tampering.

Whitechapel BellsThe following day, our newly acquired skills were put to the test as Alan brought us up the tower of the magnificent Norwich Cathedral where we assisted him with a condition survey of the bells and bell frame.

Norwich Cathedral bell and bell frame survey with Alan Hughes

Norwich Cathedral bell and bell frame survey with Alan Hughes

On Wednesday, we were hosted by the SPAB Scholar and architect, Nick Cox who we had previously spent time with at Wells Cathedral – on this occasion, we were introduced to the architectural historian, writer and broadcaster, Jeremy Musson. Both Nick and Jeremy guided us on our choices for the Plunket section* of the Scholarship, which is fast approaching, in the beautiful setting of Worton House, Oxfordshire where we were kindly hosted by Mr & Mrs Axtell, the owners. We also made a visit to the exquisite Blenheim Palace, where Nick and his associates have been working recently.

The magnificent Blenheim Palace, with Nick Cox Architects*The Plunket section of the Scholarship programme has run since 1980 and provides an extra three months of intensive study into architecture and the allied arts in some of the country’s finest stately homes. The Patrick Plunket Memorial Scholarship is named in memory of the 7th Lord Plunket, Deputy Mater of the Royal Household to Queen Elizabeth II

Week 14 Part 2 to follow tomorrow –  Calke Abbey, the ‘unstately home’


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