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.



After the soothing train journey I wrote about yesterday, I met up with an amazing couple who spent a whole year working with abandoned children in Bulgaria, children who were living in even worse conditions than the ones I blogged about here and here. Alan and Jenni were inspiring and challenging and gave me lots of food and wine. What more could you ask for?

Well, no matter how good a trip away, it is always great to return home so when I arrived back I took some photos of one of my favourite places in Sheffield. This is Sheaf Square,  just outside the station.

On the right as you walk up to town is the Cutting Edge sculpture, an installation that celebrates steel, which has played such a crucial role in Sheffield’s history. I love the contrast between the rigidity of the structure and the constant, shimmering play of light and reflection.

On the other side of the path is a lavish water feature which similarly juxtaposes clear lines and strong patterns with endless fluidity.

The path continues up to Sheffield Hallam University and then into the Millennium Gallery and the glorious Winter Garden. It’s a rare example of truly successful regeneration and one of the many things that make me proud to live in Sheffield.