fourteen

A ring of bells is a good thing to have on an Advent calendar. These ones, which now hang in the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, have an interesting history, albeit one with a rather un-Christmassy ending.

As most people know, Sheffield has long and proud associations with metal work, especially steel. These bells – made in 1886 for Bassaleg Parish Church in south Wales – are among more than 7,000 that were produced out of cast steel by the Sheffield-based company Naylor Vickers between 1855 and 1890. They were popular as a stopgap for parishes who were saving up until they could splash out on bronze, which was considered superior. Today only 15 sets of cast steel bells survive.

The technique Naylor Vickers used depends on moulds that withstand very high temperatures of production. After bell making ceased, this method of producing a smooth and finely finished casting was adapted by Vickers for making bombs.