My Heritage Open Day
BY FRANKIE BROOM
Hello all, my name is Frankie, and I am a volunteer with the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust. I have been volunteering in the museum for almost 5 months and I love it. I work mainly with the collections, and my favourite thing about volunteering here is being able to create new displays, interpretation and information boards. I love being able to share the history of this fantastic building, the Taylor family and the many fascinating objects in the museum with everyone. Last year, I finished a BA degree in History and German and I knew then that I wanted to work in museums, to be surrounded by history and to share that history with others. I have very recently finished a Master’s degree in Museum and Heritage Development at Nottingham Trent University and volunteering at the Bellfoundry Museum has been a great experience, and is also a welcome break from studying!
Last weekend, the museum and factory opened to the public for a weekend of free activities and tours, and a great weekend was had by all! The Heritage Open Days initiative began in 1994, where heritage sites and museums opened their doors to the public for free to celebrate England’s heritage, history and community. This year, 5,500 heritage sites participated in the event, and the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust is proud to be one of them. So many visitors came for a visit and were able to experience the factory and the museum, with the local MP for Loughborough Jane Hunt popping in for a visit too.
Throughout the weekend, visitors could explore every nook and cranny of the factory, an area that is normally hidden behind the big red door. Our amazing tour guides showed visitors around whilst sharing the history and stories of the factory, the company and the surrounding bells. After grabbing a hot cup of tea and a Kit-Kat from the refreshment stand, visitors could then explore the factory by themselves to discover more secrets or wander over to the museum where there was a host of activities for all the family.
Taylor’s Bellfoundry has a long history, alongside that of the Taylor family itself, and this is the story told throughout the museum. Visitors could explore stories like that of the founding of the foundry, the Taylor family and the Bellfoundry through World War I and the creation of the Loughborough Carillon. One of the biggest (and loudest) attractions of the museum is the Furnace Gallery, where centuries of bells, with some being made way back in the 14th century, were tried out by visitors using the mallets available. Some visitors even donned the Taylor’s Bellfoundry uniform and became bell-makers for the day!
Throughout the museum were activities for everyone to get stuck into. So many budding treasure-hunters explored the museum looking for the little bellmakers hiding around the building. With their help we managed to find them all again! Those same treasure-hunters then became bell-makers and had a go at brass-rubbing and Play-Doh bell mould making. As you can imagine, the Heritage Open Day weekend was no quiet affair at the Bellfoundry! With more bells than you can shake a stick at (sticks also handy for testing bells with), visitors could also get hands on and have a lesson in hand bell ringing for themselves with volunteers Jim and Janet, and I have it on good authority that it sounded excellent!
The main attraction for the weekend, however, were the bell castings on both the Saturday and the Sunday. These events were an excellent opportunity to see how bells are made for yourself, and we managed to fit 50 people onto the balcony for each day. The bell cast on the Saturday was the Loughborough Hope Bell, recently commissioned by the Charnwood Town Council. This bell will be the central bell in a new clock chime planned for Loughborough, which will be a memorial for all of those who have lost their lives to Covid-19, alongside acting as a symbol of hope for the future. It was amazing to see this important bell being made and many of our visitors thought so too.
My Heritage Open Day was spent serving teas, coffees, pop and snacks to visitors throughout the day. My favourite part of the day was seeing each visitor come off the tours and being excited about the foundry and its history. I even met a visitor who had grown up over the road and had watched and heard the activity in the foundry for years but had never had the opportunity to actually come in before! I loved meeting the variety of people who had decided to come for a visit, from regular church bell ringers, who wanted to experience the making of the church bells they ring, to families who wanted a fun day out experiencing this ancient trade that is so important to the history of Loughborough. It was an excellent weekend and I look forward to doing it again next year!