This wasn't my own choice of a visit but I was invited my a friend to join a group trip which she had booked A YEAR AGO and she had a couple of people drop out. It was therefore more a question of a day in London with this included rather my own inclination. It's probably mostly of interest to bell ringers and anyone of a musical inclination towards the less ordinary.
The foundry is certainly old with incredible history and worth a visit if only for that. it's also, because it's a working foundry, very dirty, a bit dark in places and has lots of things to trip over, fall on etc. There are also a couple of steep staircases to climb so you need to be fairly nimble and also be able and prepared to stand for the one and a half hours which the tour takes.
Our guide, who was informative and knowledgeable, would have probably preferred to be elsewhere at 4pm on a Saturday and this came across in his talk. Most guides welcome questions and the opportunity to show off their knowledge. On Saturday we met the exception. The questions which were asked were answered sharply and one lady who raised a question which had previously been asked - due to the number of people present she hadn't heard this - was told "you weren't listening, I've already explained that". Phew.
Having said this, I did enjoy the visit more than I expected. I had no idea how much was involved in the making of a bell. One visitor raised the question of how the bells were turned for toning prior to electricity and wondered if donkeys had been used, as they are in other countries for this sort of task. He was slapped down verbally rather sharply "no, no donkeys, ever no donkeys here". i thought it was a valid question and had actually been vaguely wondering the same myself. There was an answer but I didn't really understand it and decided not to query it having already been branded "a troublemaker" because I asked how often a bell had to be scrapped because the tone was wrong. (It's two in 47 years by the way).
Bearing in mind the charge is £12 per person - this mounts up to quite a lot for a group of 30 people considering there are no overheads except for the tour guide, the lady at the door and keeping the lights on!
There's a very small gift shop though nothing to loosen my purse strings. There are some bags for life - one lady said she thought they were a bit small and was told "well they're folded up aren't they!" She bought one anyway.
Would I go again? Not, not interesting enough for me personally.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you're interested in bell ringing, anything to do with the history of bells or of a musical inclination.
You do need to book quite a long time in advance as tours are only on Saturdays. It's near to Aldgate East Tube Station.
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