Ding Dong

I have a friend with a pretty unique job: he works for one of the world's best-known* bell foundries as a bell-hanger. As such, he finds himself all over the country up church spires doing his thing. This week he's been working on a local church** and, as someone who he knows is generally interested in stuff, he invited me along to see what he does. Sort of a 'take your inquisitive and generally harmless friend to work day'.

Of course, I took my camera along: I like to take pictures of things that not everyone is going to be able to see, and getting up-close and personal with church bells is something that the majority of people will never do. These are what I feel are the highlights, and you can see a few more over at Flickr:

Things to spot:

  • My feet.
  • A load of old bells.
  • A red bit.
  • Paul's leg.

Here's Paul cutting some bolts to the right size.

These bells are old. You'll see quite how old in a few pictures' time.

Here's part of the mechanism for the church's clock face.

When church bells are cast, they are dated. This one was cast in 1678 - it's over 300 years old - and still going strong!

A St. Nicholas' eye-view of Thrapston church.

Is there something compelling about graveyards, or is that just me? The dark, shadowy mass on the left of this image is the "X" from the clock face's "XII".

These wagon wheels are usually in place around the headstocks from which the bells hang. The bell-rope runs around the guttering at the circumference, and through a hole in the floor to the ringing room below.

There's that "XII" again.

Another reminder as to how old these bells are. I didn't notice the red splodge in the "6" until I'd taken the photo. Must have been a rogue splash of the paint that protects the rig that holds the bells.

This is a door that leads to the outside world. A very high-up part of the outside world. Being a pathetic wuss with no real head for heights, and already quite high up, I couldn't quite bring myself to investigate this further. So this is all you're getting.

Like I said; I don't like heights.

A view along the headstocks of three of the bells.

Paul's gently persuading a reluctant bolt that yes, it does actually want to do its job and stop the best part of a ton of cast iron from plummeting the height of a church tower.

This is what a church spire looks like from the inside.

An interesting inscription that you otherwise probably wouldn't get to see. This was on the opposite side of the spire to the door that you saw a few photos back.

Here's that door again. Or, rather, the doorway after Paul, who's not a wuss, opened it.

After a bell has been fitted in place, it needs to be tested.

A clapper waiting to be fitted.

Bells 4, 5 & 6, the biggest three, with number 6 being the biggest.

Sunlight through what passes for a window up here.

This photo is particularly interesting as the boy you can see standing in the far left of it is actually Paul as a young'un. It just happened to be lying on the windowsill when Paul arrived, out of sheer coincidence (you can see by the state of it that it's been there a while!) The photo was taken in, and is currently located in, the ringing room which is directly beneath (naturally) the room in which the bells are located.

* To campanologists.
** St Nicholas in Islip, if you're interested.


  1. That's one sexy friend you have there! ;) good pics Tom, glad you enjoyed your insight into the weird and wonderful world we bellringers (only non ringers ever use the term campanologist!) inhabit. And yes, graveyards are fascinating.

  2. Great photos! Very proud of what my brother does for a living!

  3. Graham: Thanks for the comment!

    Jennie: You should've seen the guy behind the camera.

    Charlene: Thank you! I love having the opportunity to take some photos of things that people don't often see. I imagine that most people can go through their entire life without finding themselves in a bell-tower, much less one that's being worked on.

    Denise: As you should be! He's very passionate and knowledgeable about it. He just came out with bits and bobs all afternoon. If I'd had a hand free I might have made some notes and written up a whistle-stop tour of church bell history and maintenance!

    1. It was probably best that you kept your spare hand free for clinging on to the frame! It gave me vertigo just looking at Paul perched on a frame undoing bolts. I may be a ringer, but clambering amongst the bells is something I loved when I was younger; my fear increases with age!


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