Rare steel bells to ring in Sheffield for Heritage Open Days event

Clare Starkie, with the Sheffield Bells behind her, which are on display at the Millennium Gallery and will be rung for this years heritage open days. Picture: Andrew Roe
Clare Starkie, with the Sheffield Bells behind her, which are on display at the Millennium Gallery and will be rung for this years heritage open days. Picture: Andrew Roe
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An historic set of Sheffield-made church bells will ring out to mark a weekend celebrating the city’s heritage.

The steel bells on display in the Millennium Gallery will join a chorus of bells across the city on September 8 as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.

The Sheffield Bells are on display at the Millennium Gallery and will be rung for this years heritage open days. Picture: Andrew Roe

The Sheffield Bells are on display at the Millennium Gallery and will be rung for this years heritage open days. Picture: Andrew Roe

Dating back to the 1860s, the bells are an example of many made by Naylor-Vickers for export across the world. They were popular due to their low cost and weight compared to bronze bells, but very few now exist.

The bells are rarely heard, but on September 8 they will be rung alongside those in a number of churches to herald Heritage Open Days.

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Clare Starkie, curator of decorative art at Museums Sheffield, which runs the Millennium Gallery, said: “To be able to use the bells occasionally is great.

“It is very tricky, because they are meant to be hung in a church tower so they can move. We can’t do that in the gallery, so we have to move the clappers instead.”

The bells rang when the gallery opened, and again as part of a national day of bell-ringing following the 2012 London Olympic Games. They create quite a racket and will be muted on September 8, but should still be heard across the city centre.

“We always do various events for Heritage Open Days,” said Clare. “It’s always great to see what’s going on and there will be a lot of other bell-ringing events going on.”

Naylor-Vickers began making steel bells in Sheffield in the 1700s. The bells were particularly popular in smaller parishes or areas which could not afford bronze bells, and the company made thousands to send all over Britain. Because they were lighter they were also easier to transport to other countries the world.

But many of the bells were replaced by bronze versions, and as a result there a few steel versions remaining.

The bells in the Millennium Gallery were originally made for a church in Bassaleg, a suburb of Newport in South Wales. But they were brought back to Sheffield by the town trust and Arts Council England’s Prism Fund.

Clare said: “It was really important to bring them back because they are so rare. Not very much was known about them so we had to do a lot of research.”

A full list of this year’s events will be published at www.facebook.com/sheffieldheritageopendays.

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