Local youngsters travel back in time at Loughborough Bellfoundry for takeover day

Schoolchildren from Wymeswold Primary, in Loughborough, travelled back in time to learn the history and heritage of their hometown’s iconic bellfoundry, as part of a national learning scheme.

Kids in Museums Takeover Day took place in Loughborough on Monday 25 November – and sees museums, galleries, historic homes and heritage sites across the UK open their doors and invite young people in to take over roles normally performed by adults.

The Loughborough Bellfoundry welcomed pupils from nearby school Wymeswold Primary, for a tour of the working site as well as the chance to step into the shoes of the many team members who work to keep the Victorian museum and factory alive.

Each pupil was given their own name and ID badge, with the day kicking off with a talk on the different jobs performed by the team at the Bellfoundry. The school was then split into two groups, with half taking on the challenge of being a museum curator, and the second learning how to be a tour guide.

After lunch, pupils took on the ‘architect’s challenge’ in the Bellfoundry museum alongside project architects Caroe Architecture Ltd, who tasked the youngsters to come up with an idea and design for a new museum. The takeover day then finished with a full tour of the site.

An urgent campaign has recently been launched by the Loughborough Bellfoundry, in a bid to save its position as the last major bellfoundry in the UK and Commonwealth. Without urgent repairs and a sustainable plan for the future, this important piece of history and place of learning could be lost forever.

More than 25,000 bells have been cast since the present bellfoundry was built in 1859 and its bells can be heard all around the world, from London’s St Paul’s Cathedral to Washington National Cathedral in the US capital, and the National Carillon in Canberra, Australia to Cape Town City Hall in South Africa.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund recently awarded the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust, owner of the bellfoundry, nearly £300,000 of Development Phase funding to allow it to work up detailed proposals for its two Grade II* listed buildings that are in urgent need of repairs. The project is also being supported by the Architectural Heritage Fund, which has pledged £30,000.

To avoid the considerable loss of traditional craftmanship and seismic impact on historic buildings around the world, the team behind the restoration project is also seeking £1 million from the public and any organisation wishing to help secure the bellfoundry’s future for generations to come.

The bellfoundry also hopes to extend its offering as a place of learning and education, by opening its doors with local schools and volunteer groups, and taking part in worthwhile initiatives such as Kids in Museums Takeover Day.

Trustee of the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust, Andrew Wilby said: “As we move forward with our campaign to save the last major working bellfoundry in Britain, we’re delighted to see so much enthusiasm from schools and community groups. When young people engage with the bellfoundry in such a positive way, it makes us more determined than ever to ensure that our extraordinary heritage is not lost.”

Head teacher at Wymeswold Primary School, Jan Scallon commented: “The children were very interested to learn about the local history of Loughborough and were excited to be curators and museum guides for the day. It was a worthwhile visit, and all pupils thoroughly enjoyed their time at the Bellfoundry and seeing the museum and factory come alive. It was a good opportunity to teach them about the many roles involved at the Bellfoundry and the variety of skills and knowledge.”

If you would like to donate to save Britain’s last bellfoundry, please click here.