IHBC’s ‘Heritage (and industry) from the doorstep’: London’s St Paul’s bells returning to Loughborough after 140 years… for a clean-up

buildings and riverTwelve bells that last rang out for traditional new year peal from St Paul’s Cathedral are now being moved for restoration to where they were originally cast in 1878, at the Grade II* Listed John Taylor & Co bellfoundry in Loughborough, now the last remaining major bellfoundry in Britain and on the Historic England Heritage At Risk Register, writes the Leicester Mercury.

The Leicester Mercury writes:

The bells of St Paul’s Cathedral are coming to Loughborough so that they can be restored at the same foundry where they were cast 140 years ago. The 12 bells last rang out for the traditional new year peal and are now being moved to the John Taylor & Co bellfoundry in Freehold Street, where they were cast in 1878.

There they will be cleaned to remove a thick layer of grime and fitted with new moving parts to improve their performance. It is hoped that the bells will be back in operation in time for their 140th birthday on November 1. With routine maintenance the bells should then be good for another 140 years.

Not all the bells are moving. ‘Great Paul’, weighing in at nearly 18 tons, occupies the cathedral’s South Tower and is the largest bell ever cast by Taylor’s – but will be staying put. The cathedral towers will not be entirely silent, as the clock bells – including Great Tom – will continue to sound, as will the original service bell which dates from 1700.

Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan visited St Paul’s to see most of the bells lowered down on Thursday. She said she was keen to give her backing to the historic foundry which faces an uncertain future. She said: ‘Craftsmen-made bells cast at Taylor’s have been an iconic part of Loughborough life for nearly 300 years. How wonderful is it to know that bells made by Loughborough hands are heard by millions of people every day and all over the world. It’s hugely symbolic that as the St Paul’s bells come home to Loughborough for cleaning the very future of this historic business faces challenging times.’

Following the recent closure of the Whitechapel Bellfoundry, Taylor’s is the last remaining major bellfoundry in Britain. The Grade II* Listed foundry was purpose-built in 1859 and is on the Historic England Heritage At Risk Register. Over the years it has benefited from a number of repairs grants from Historic England but still needs support.

An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was recently made to help the foundry and will go before the Lottery board of trustees on April 24. Mrs Morgan said: ‘Lottery funding will safeguard an important part of our heritage and equally secure a future for an age old craft, not just in Loughborough but throughout Britain.’

Andrew Wilby, chairman and director of John Taylor & Co, said: ‘We are proud to be welcoming back to Loughborough one of the most culturally significant peals of bells in the world.   We are immensely proud of the work that Taylor’s have done over the centuries and determined to ensure that we can continue to look after the tens of thousands of bells in our parish churches, town halls and cathedrals and universities at home, here in the UK for generations to come.’

Oliver Caroe, who is the ‘surveyor to the fabric’ of St Paul’s, said: ‘St Paul’s is immensely proud of our celebrated peal of bells, which were cast by John Taylor and Co 140 years ago. The bells are rung for national celebrations and commemoration and their music marks the weekly cycle of Christian worship. Our pride in these bells is equally matched by Taylors and we are delighted the bells will be returning to the historic foundry for this re-hang and refurbishment, which has been funded by many supporters of the bells, including the successors of the original donors.’

Over the years, Taylor’s have been involved with around 15,000 bell projects including 50,000 bells dating back to 1744. Its bells are hung in over 100 countries around the world which provide a soundscape to the lives of millions of people. This will only one of a handful of times in their history that the bells have been silent for any length of time – the previous occasions being the two World Wars and a period from 1925 to 1930 when the Cathedral itself was closed for major building works.

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