Britain's last remaining bellfoundry saved thanks to National Lottery players
19th December 2020
The iconic Loughborough Bellfoundry has cast more than 25,000 bells that are hung in over 100 countries, with 20 million people in Britain, and hundreds of millions worldwide, hearing a bell cast at the bellfoundry every day. However, the historic site was at serious risk of being permanently lost without urgent repairs...
Since 1859, the iconic Loughborough Bellfoundry, home to John Taylor & Co bellfounders, has cast more than 25,000 bells that are hung in over 100 countries, in churches, cathedrals, universities and public buildings. 20 million people in Britain, and hundreds of millions worldwide, hear a bell cast at the Loughborough Bellfoundry every day.
Bells from the foundry have even entered popular culture – the bells from St Thomas’s Church, in Fifth Avenue, New York, which can be heard on The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s Christmas anthem Fairytale of New York, were cast at the site.
However, the globally unique, purpose-built Victorian bellfoundry was at serious risk of being permanently lost without urgent repairs. The closure of the bellfoundry would be a huge loss to traditional craftsmanship, with a seismic impact on historic buildings around the world.
Thanks to the £3.45m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund - and match-funding bringing the total to £5m - the site has been secured for the future and removed from the Heritage at Risk register.
The money will not only pay for urgent repairs - protecting the foundry from further decay and potential loss - it will also be used to train a new generation in bell-making skills, deliver an engagement and outreach programme, increase access to the unique archive, expand production and develop the onsite bell museum as a heritage destination, attracting visitors from around the world.
The funds have been awarded to The Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust, a not-for-profit organisation responsible for the protection of the Grade II listed Loughborough Bellfoundry buildings and the onsite bell museum and archive, which showcases almost 160 years of bells and bellfounding.
“This news is the best possible Christmas present and will ensure that the foundry, its buildings, the museum and rare archive will be protected, and that Loughborough bells are heard and enjoyed by many future generations around the world. “As well as to protect the site, our aim is to make the Loughborough Bellfoundry the global centre for the art of bell making and learning and provide an engaging and exciting visitor experience. Thanks to National Lottery players, we can do exactly that.”
Hannah Taylor, chair of the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust
Bellfounders John Taylor & Co employ a team of 30, with a range of highly specialist heritage skills including casting, tuning and finishing bells. It produces all of the associated parts and mechanisms such as frames, headstocks, wheels, hand-bells, carillons and bell ropes.
Ros Kerslake, previous CEO of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “The Loughborough Bellfoundry is the perfect example of why we invest National Lottery money in our heritage – it creates jobs, encourages tourism, keeps heritage skills alive and most of all, ensures a future for a unique and valuable heritage that makes all our lives better. “I am delighted to be able to share this news at Christmas. It’s is wonderful way to end a challenging year for all of us, not least our heritage organisations. We are looking forward to a brighter future for the Loughborough Bellfoundry in 2021.”
Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "Heard by millions of people across the world everyday, bells produced by Taylor's bellfoundry are an example of a great British export success story and an important part of our cultural heritage. I am delighted that, with this grant, a new generation will learn bell-making skills and the museum will be developed into an exciting tourist destination, safeguarding the future of our heritage."
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Bells made at the Loughborough Bellfoundry hang in thousands of buildings across the world, and their peals have been heard and enjoyed by millions. Home to John Taylor & Co, a family business dating back to the middle of the 14th century, the bellfoundry has been the pride of Loughborough for over 160 years. This grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will allow for essential repairs and give more people the chance to understand how special the foundry is, ensuring it continues to play an important part in today’s world.”
The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will be used for:
- Removing the buildings from the At Risk register and undertaking repairs
- Reorganising the factory, making it more efficient
- Securing the long-term sustainability of numerous at-risk craft skills and jobs
- Improving the visitor experience throughout
- Enhancing, expanding and modernising the existing museum
- Improving and enlarging the archive
- Delivery of a wide-reaching engagement and outreach programme
The Loughborough Bellfoundry - Amazing Facts
- The bells that can be heard in The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s Fairytale of New York were cast here for St Thomas’s Church, in Fifth Avenue, New York.
- The bell used for the AC/DC track Hells Bells was also cast at Loughborough. The band then took the specially-branded AC/DC bell on its 1980 Back in Black tour.
- The largest church bell in Britain, Great Paul, was cast at the Loughborough Bellfoundry in 1881 and now hangs in St Paul’s Cathedral.
- Many thousands of bells that ring in Churches and Cathedrals were cast at the Loughborough Bellfoundry.
- More large bells have been cast at the Loughborough Bellfoundry than any other bellfoundry in Britain - more than 200 of which weigh in excess of two tonnes
- John Taylor & Co. continues a line of bell founding which has been unbroken since the middle of the 14th Century