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Church Bells

How often does a Church need to replace its bells? The answer is about once every 500 years ... so when it happens it's a very special occasion.

Watching bell-making at the world famous Whitechapel Foundry in London is a great way to learn the secrets of moulding metal. It was here that the Liberty Bell of America was cast, as indeed was Big Ben!

Bell metal is a type of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, and the action starts with the molten metal being poured into moulds. The moulds are made of clay, held inside metal cases, and consist of two main parts - the cope and the core. The molten bell metal fills the bell shaped gap between the cope and core, and is then left to cool off over the weekend.

On Monday it's time to break the bells out of their moulds. This is done with some lifting machinery and a bit of nifty footwork. Once the heavy cope (the top of the mould) is removed, and any remaining clay from the mould is brushed off, it reveals a glistening new bell.

Bells must chime together musically so, just like piano or violin strings, they need to be tuned. A hardened metal tooth scrapes away at the bell's interior to achieve exactly the right pitch. Once tuned the bell can be sent to church.

Churchmen with good heads for heights hoist the new bell into the bellfry and secure it firmly onto the bell-wheel with heavy bolts so it doesn't crash down and kill the vicar!

Finally, the clapper is attached, and the bells are ready to be rung, sounding out proudly across the English countryside as they have done for generations!

Duration: 5:44

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Price: €1.17.

This film is also available on the DVD:
'The Magic of Making - Volume 3'.