Taylor's Foundry Archives

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TAYLOR ARCHIVES:

Taylor's Archivists, George Dawson & Chris Pickford, with newly rebound copies of our set of Church Bells - now available digitally on-line.

http://www.cccbr.org.uk/library/olpubs/#cb

Our team of NADFAS volunteer conservators (left to right) Hilary Olleson, Gill Carter, Sue Palfrey & Evelyn Brown.

Introduction

The archives of the Taylor bellfoundry and its predecessors go right back to the early eighteenth century and from the time the foundry moved to Loughborough in 1839-40 the records are remarkably complete.

The entire collection - along with the John Taylor Bellfoundry Museum - is now administered by a separate “not for profit” company, Bell Foundry Collections Ltd (BFCL), which exists to ensure that this incredibly rich heritage material is safeguarded for the future. All income from activities related to the collections goes to support the preservation and maintenance of the Museum and archives.

Both BFCL and John Taylor Bell Foundry (Loughborough) Limited are happy to make the archives accessible for people undertaking research. Indeed, we are keen to encourage use.

Most material over 25 years old is open to view unless there are considerations of commercial confidentiality or data protection. However, as the archive is privately owned, both companies reserve the right to restrict access as they see fit (see Access Conditions below).

These pages provide information about the archives, suggest a range of studies for which they may be useful and explain how you can access the material if you wish to do so.

About the archives

John Taylor & Co claim business descent from the pre-Reformation founders in Leicester, and later from Hugh Watts II who was one of the great bellfounders of the first half of the seventeenth century.

No original foundry records of such early date survive, but when the Eayres of Kettering and St. Neots took up bellfounding in the early eighteenth century they produced bells in the style of Watts - whose work they greatly admired. The earliest records in the Taylor archive go back to the time of Thomas Eayre I and Edward Arnold who eventually succeeded the Eayres at St.Neots in 1772.

Robert Taylor, the first of the Taylor bellfounders, was apprenticed to Arnold. The archive certainly include records from Robert’s time and from the period when the Taylor foundry was located at Oxford, Buckland Brewer (Devon) and elsewhere before finally settling at Loughborough in 1839-40.

However from 1842 the principals of the firm kept careful records, cross referenced, of their work. From that date the bellfounding archive is virtually complete.

So what material does the archive contain? There are several important main Record Series:

  • Copy Books with job details, copies of estimates and letters, memoranda etc

  • Job Books which record all bells cast, & finished

  • Inscription Books recording bell inscriptions on new bells from 1888 onwards

  • Metal Books recording all bells coming into the works & casting details

  • Crook Books which record crooks (strickles) & their usage

  • Technical material regarding bellframes and fittings

  • Correspondence Books with copies of all letters out

  • Correspondence files

  • Inspection notebooks which record the state of towers inspected

  • Day Books which have full copies of all invoices for work done

  • There’s a great deal more - but these are probably the most useful series

 

Great Peter arriving at York Minster, 1927

In addition, there is an extensive Photographic Archive. Many jobs from the 1880’s onwards were photographed before leaving the works. Then from the late 1950’s there are more photos, particularly of major commissions.

Lastly, we have a good collection of published material relating to church bells and bellfounding - notably a near-complete set of “Church bells of …” books. Alongside these are complete sets of the main bellringers’ periodicals - Church Bells, Bell News and the Ringing World.

The archives - research uses

The archives will, of course, be useful to anyone interested in bells, bell music, and the history of bells and bellfounding. That goes without saying! These are just some of the likely uses

  • Bellringers can find out about the history of their tower - exploring the Taylor involvement there (before, during & after restoration)

  • Church historians working with the bellringers to prepare exhibitions and displays for publicity events etc

  • Guilds and Associations updating the records of towers and bells in their areas

  • Drawing on the materials for continued development of the “Dove” and “National Bell Register” databases

But although the collection IS about bells, it is by no means JUST about bells.

Some of the topics for more general study might include:

  • The application of music and science to the manufacture and tuning of bells

  • Engineering and technology as applied to bellframe design and bellhanging

  • Transport - and the carriage of heavy loads worldwide

  • Architectural history - information on the architects responsible for major church and public works commissions where bells were involved.

  • Family history and biography - the Taylor family and staff

  • Industrial archaeology

Catalogues and indexes

Since BFCL became responsible for the collection, the archives have been fully catalogued and numbered for the first time. Work is still going on to improve the contents of the catalogue and add further detailed information about the different categories of material. In due course the full catalogue will eventually be made available online. In the meantime, a summary list is available here [link to new page - text for this in Appendix I below]

Alongside this, work has been done to improve the “finding aids” for some of the main record series to make it easier to find the entries relating to particular places or jobs. In the past the only means of access was by hand-written indexes in individual volumes. We have now created electronic indexes - searchable and sortable - for whole series of records (e.g. the Job books and inspection notebooks)

In addition, some existing indexes (e.g. to the file series and to the technical drawings) have been upgraded to searchable electronic formats.

As a result of this work, it has become much easier - quite suddenly, it seems! - to collate information from the full range of archival material in our safe-keeping.

SO, what if you want to find out something from the archives?

Information already available

Much of the basic information about our bells - and about old bells that we have rehung or repaired - is already available via two publicly accessible websites. These are

If you’re looking for information on the bells of particular churches or wanting to find out about work carried out by our firm, then you would do well to start with these websites.

If your interest is in the history of the firm itself, then a good starting place is the excellent book by Trevor S. Jennings (the first curator of the John Taylor Bellfoundry Museum) Master of my Art: The Taylor Bellfoundries 1784-1987. Published in 1987, this book is currently out of print - but it should be relatively easy to borrow a copy through the public library service or from a ringers’ library.  

Requesting information

We offer an enquiry service for people wishing to obtain information from the records without visiting. As this involves work for individual enquirers, we charge for it.

Our baseline charge is £25 for an initial enquiry (payable in advance). For this, we will do a preliminary search and extract the main accessible information to answer your query. Any copies or scans will be charged extra at 30p a copy. We will also advise if there is potential for discovering further information by “digging deeper”.

Where additional research is requested, we charge £25 an hour - again plus the cost of any copies supplied. We will estimate in advance how much time is likely to be needed so you know the probable cost.

Search limits

With all archive research, there is always a possibility that nothing will be found. It is important that you tell us exactly what you already know (so we don’t spend time digging out material that won’t add to your knowledge) and that you are as specific as possible about what you’d like to find out.

If the records are unlikely to provide answers, we should be able to let you know before you commission a search. There’s no point spending time and money if a search is unlikely to be fruitful.

Sometimes, though, finding out about a particular job can involve looking in lots of different items within the archive - not all of which (e.g. the letterbooks) have detailed indexes. This is where research can become involved and time-consuming. In such cases, we may suggest that it would be best for you to visit and look through the material yourself.

Arranging access

Access to the archives is by prior appointment ONLY - and during normal business hours. We will do our best to accommodate visits to suit the wishes of our users, but because the archive is staffed by volunteers it will always be best for intending visitors to suggest a couple of possible dates for a visit.

Access conditions

While we are genuinely committed to opening up the archives as freely as possible, would-be users must accept that access to the material is a privilege - and certainly not a right. The operating company (John Taylor Bell Foundry (Loughborough) Limited) reserves the right to restrict access without explanation should it wish to do so. For this reason all potentially sensitive requests are routinely referred for approval first.

As with all archives, visitors are supervised and staff or volunteers will be at hand to offer further guidance when you visit. Normally, material needs to be got out ready in advance. It may be possible to produce additional items at the time of your visit but this cannot be guaranteed.

Of course, we ask you to take great care when handling material from the collection, bearing in mind that the archives are unique and irreplaceable. The usual archive “rules” apply, and we prefer you to use pencil (rather than ink) for note-taking, not to lean on or place heavy objects on the archives and to refrain from eating and drinking anywhere near the documents.

There is no borrowing. Material is only made available for study on site.

Copyright and reproduction

For the most part, copyright in the archives belongs to the company. However, rights for some items may belong to third parties. Where we own the copyright we will normally be pleased to allow the reproduction of images and text from the collections subject to full acknowledgment etc. Fees will be charged for commercial reproduction.

Fees and charges

There may be fees and charges for access to the archives, especially if an enquiry involves research by the archivist to identify relevant material or if someone has to attend specially in order to be present during your visit. Individual enquirers will be advised in advance of visiting if that is the case.

Contacts

For more information, to make an enquiry, or to enquire about a visit, make initial contact with Mary Barrass at the Foundry:-

Bell Foundry Collections Ltd

John Taylor & Co

The Bellfoundry

Freehold Street

Loughborough

Leicestershire

LE11 1AR

England

Tel: +44 (0)1509 212241

Fax: +44 (0)1509 263305

Email: office@taylorbells.co.uk

Web: http://www.taylorbells.co.uk

If contacting us by post or e-mail, please mark your enquiry “Archives enquiry” so that it can be directed to the Archivists

 

B F C Ltd Board Members:-    David E Potter (Chairman), George Dawson (Archivist), Chris Pickford (Archivist), Andrew Mills (John Taylor & Co Rep), Mary Barrass (Museum Rep). Rev David Cawley.

 

Appendix I

A SUMMARY LIST OF THE MAIN RECORDS SERIES IN THE JOHN TAYLOR BELLFOUNDRY ARCHIVE

Note: The arrangement and numbering of this list follows the scheme recommended for company records by the Business Archives Council (BAC)




Ref

Record series

Dates

1

Corporate records

 

1/3

Legal documents – e.g. memorandum and articles of association, certificates of incorporation, partnership agreements

n/a

1/7

Minutes of meetings of the managing body

n/a

1/8

Records relating to meetings of the managing body

n/a

1/12

Committee minutes and related papers

n/a

1/13

Registers of directors and secretaries etc

n/a

2

Share records

n/a

3

Internal administration

n/a

4

Accounting and financial records

 

4/1

Company accounts

1890-1980s

4/4/1

Private ledgers

1889-1930s

4/4/2

General ledgers

1856-1894

4/5/1

Bought ledgers

1894-1986

4/5/2

Credit ledgers

1884-1986

4/6

Journals

1889-1890

4/7/1

Daybooks

1847-1979

4/7/2

Cash books

1857-1983

4/8

Invoice books

1889-1983

4/9

Bill books (copy invoices)

1913-1948

4/15/1

Finance miscellaneous: Petty cash books

1978-1982

4/15/2

Finance miscellaneous: Stock books

1889-1974

4/15/3

Finance miscellaneous: Other

1925-1941

5

Legal (other than property / premises)

 

5/1

Records of patents and trademarks

n/a

5/2

Agreements and licences

n/a

5/3

Records of litigation, including opinions of counsel

n/a

5.4

Legal - miscellaneous

n/a

6

Operation

 

6/1

Manufacturing – job books

 

6/1/1

Early job books

C18 – C19

6/1/2

Copy books and “all bells” job books

1844-1884

6/1/3

Job books (fair copies or summaries) – summary books

1844-1870

6/1/4

Job books - large bells

1884-date

6/1/5

Job books - small bells

1884-date

6/1/6

Index books [to the job books]

1930s-1960s

6/2

Manufacturing - bells

 

6/2/1

Crook books

1865-1919

6/2/2

Strickle books

1904-C20

6/2/3

Inscription books

1888-1999

6/2/4

Tuning books (main series)

1895-2006

6/2/4c

Tuning books “C series” (chimes and carillons)

1919-2006

6/2/4x

Tonal analysis records

c.1900-1973

6/2/4z

Other tuning records

C20

6/2/5

Furnace books (casting books)

1844-1897

6/2/6

Bell & Brass Metals books (Furnace books)

1888-date

6/3

Manufacturing – bellframes, fittings, ropes etc

 

6/3/1

Bellframe drawing books

1877-1909

6/3/2

Bellframe drawings

1910-date

6/3/3

Bellframes: associated records

1857-1927

6/3/4

Fittings

1920s-date

6/3/5

Stays

1931-date

6/3/6

Ropes

1927-date

6/4

Manufacturing - handbells

 

6/4/1

Handbells

1906-1921

6/5

Letterbooks and correspondence

 

6/5/1

Letterbooks

1879-1939

6/5/2

Files or folders

c.1919-date

6/5/3

Old files

C20th

6/6

Metal books

 

6/6/1

Metal books: Bells (including “bells ‘in’” records

1888-1978

6/6/2

Metal books: Castings

1888-1980

6/6/3

Metal books: Handbells

1896-1960s

6/6/4

Metal prices

1890-1987

6/6/5

Metals: miscellaneous

1877-1973

6/7

Business process records (enquiries and orders)

 

6/7/1

Sales: Customer information records

C20th

6/7/2

Sales: Enquiries

1893-1923

6/7/3

Sales: Order books / job books

1909-1919

6/8

Belfry inspection notebooks

 

6/8/1

Inspection notebooks: John Taylor and John W. Taylor sen.

1842-1904

6/8/2

Inspection notebooks: John W. Taylor, jun.

1872-1919

6/8/3

Inspection notebooks: E. Denison Taylor

1884-1930

6/8/4

Inspection notebooks: Pryce Taylor

1906-1927

6/8/5

Inspection notebooks: Arnold Bradley Taylor

1911-1912

6/8/6

Inspection notebooks: John Oldham

1916-1932

6/8/7

Inspection notebooks: John P. Fidler

1926-1936

6/8/8

Inspection notebooks: Other staff – Horace Stubbs

1928-1945

6/8/9

Inspection notebooks: Belfry inspection summary books

1884-1929

6/8/10

Inspection notebooks: Rough notebooks etc

1895-1951

6/9

Manufacturing: Miscellaneous

 

6/9/1

John Taylor & Co: manufacturing miscellanea

1882-1966

6/9/2

John Taylor & Co: sundry information on bells

1882-1930s

6/9/3

Other bellfounders: Taylor notes on work of competitor firms

C20

7

Marketing and public relations

 

7/1/1

Catalogues and promotional materials (in the archive)

1820-1968

7/1/2

Company publications

1910-1987

7/1/3

Other promotional items

1927-2001

7/4

Product photographs and videos

C19-C20

7/7/1

Testimonials

1897-1951

7/7/2

Press cuttings books

1878 –C20

8

Staff and employment records

 

8/1/1-

Wages books

1871-1977

8/1/21-

Salaries books

1932-1962

8/1/31-

Time books (wages)

1905-1913

8/2

Personnel registers and records

1920s-1970s

9

Premises and property records

 

9/1

Property records (e.g. registers, rentals, surveys)

 

9/2

Premises records (e.g. build agreements and plans, plant registers, inventories, valuations, architectural drawings)

 

9/3

Repairs records

 

9/4

Insurance records

n/a

9/5

Title deeds etc

n/a

9/6

Premises and property miscellaneous

 

10

Third party documentation

n/a

10/1

Drawings in (i.e. architectural and mechanical drawings from other firms)

 

10/2

Bellfounders’ and bellhangers catalogues - other firms

 

11

Branch / agency records (where these are distinct from head office) [not needed]

n/a

12

Taylor family

 

12/1

Taylor family photograph albums

C19th-C20th

13

Literary (non-Taylor)

C20th

13/1

Literary ms (non-Taylor)

 

13/2

Books on bells and ringing (rare books)

 

13/3

Other ringing books and manuscripts

 

13/4

Ringing periodicals

 

14

Miscellaneous

 

Appendix II

EXAMPLES FROM THE RECORDS 

Early records

  

While the later records are very detailed and highly structured in form, the earlier ones are much more miscellaneous in character - notebooks containing jottings and sketches, with no particular order or scope. That makes them all the more interesting, adding an element of serendipity to research.

These two examples illustrate the nature of the records. On the left, a page giving the “settings” and details for bells cast at St.Neots by Robert Taylor for Knapwell (Cambs), Steppingley (Beds) and Great Addington (Northants) in 1807 - plus details of the old tenor from Maulden (Beds) in 1809. On the right, details of the new treble by John Taylor for North Tamerton (Cornwall) in 1831 and notes on “good dimensions for a peal of six”. On this page there are sketches of a female figure, probably a family member - one of many in this particular volume.

Job books

     

 

The recording of detailed information about each job - settings and finished date for bells cast, sizes of headstocks and wheels, details of gudgeons, bearings and clappers, frame plans etc - goes right back to the earliest days of the business. Systematic record-keeping began in 1842 and the records from that date are more or less complete - first in the Copy Book series (duplicated in summarised date in the Summary Book series for 1844-1870) and then in the Job Books which commence in 1884.

These pages from one of the Copy Books show the level of detail recorded - not just bell weights, notes and diameters, but also dimensions of fittings etc, even down to the sizes (and patterns) of individual components. This is the Folkestone job, a new ring of eight cast (tenor 25½ cwt) for the old Parish Church there in 1878. At this date tuning details and inscriptions were included in the main entry. Later they were entered into separate books.

Inspection books

             

The inspection notebooks kept by members of the Taylor family and senior staff at the works from the 1840s onwards contain useful description of tower and bells as they were before major work was carried out. They thus record details of old frames that no longer exist, former bells and old fittings - showing too, of course, why major work was required. Including multiple entries for the same church or building there are some 6500 inspection records in the series.

These pages refer to the bells at Derby All Saints (now the Cathedral) when John Oldham visited for Taylors in 1925. The bells were then in the old ten-bell frame which was placed diagonally in the tower. This is an exceptionally detailed and useful historical record of the installation as it was before the bells were rehung with new Taylor frame and fittings in 1927.

Bellframe drawings

      

The archive includes original drawings for bellframes installed by John Taylor & Co from the 1880s - works of art in their own right, as well as working drawings of frames from this period of fine engineering and innovation which remain in use today.

This drawing shows the Taylor cast-iron “lowside” frame for Badsey (Worcs), installed in 1897. The job was completed on 22 December, in time for the bells to be rung at Christmas.

Inscription books

The inscription books record the exact wording of the inscriptions to be placed on new bells. The older records only give “special inscriptions” without showing the precise layout. Later, the inscription books indicate letter sizes, exact markings and the positions on the bells.

This page is from the volume for 1890-91 with details for a clock chime at Ashby Folville (Leics), a large bell for Holywood R.C. Church (Co. Down), new bells for Bedworth (Warwicks) and Aldrington (Sussex), and a recast for Taunton St James (Somerset)

 

This is an example of the later style of inscription book entry, showing that the sizes and positions of all marks and lettering were carefully recorded exactly as they were to be cast on the bell.

Record sheets for old bells through the works

 

In the main files series are to be found record sheets like this for bells received into the works for recasting or rehanging. John Taylor & Co started recording inscriptions and other details in this style in the 1930s, continuing through to the 1980s. These little sheets provide excellent records - often for bells (e.g. “lost rings”) that were scrapped, and for which there is virtually no other detailed record.

This example records the details of the five bells from South Brewham (Somerset) in 1969 when three of the bells were scrapped and the two smallest rehung by Taylors.

The Daybooks

 

The daybooks contain copies of all invoices for work carried out by John Taylor & Co from 1847 onwards. As well as providing good financial information about the company and its trading activities, these record give detailed information about individual jobs - and the people involved. Unfortunately, however, these volumes are not indexed by places and customers and so searching involves going through page-by-page.

In this case, Sir T.G. Jackson was the architect for work on Hunton church tower when the bells were recast. The invoice gives details of the old and new bells and a description of what was done - complete with itemised prices. The crossing through was simply for internal accountancy procedures

Appendix III

EXAMPLES FROM THE RECORDS

The photographic collection

The extensive photographic collection seems to have started in the 1880’s and most of the early material is on glass negatives. Indeed the Taylors had their own dark room in the works where the family developed their work.

Whilst many prints exist, there is much material for which only the negatives survive.

Handling these negatives is a delicate process & the negatives generally will not be available to researchers. However these have been digitally scanned and this material is now avalable.

The scope of the collection is wide ranging, covering pictures of the works, casting & manufacturing, transport, notable bells, rings, carillons and staff.

Sadly an unknown amount of material was lost in the 1970’s when there was a clear-out in the offices. Occasionally customers are able to show us ‘lost’ pictures that originally belonged to the collection. In such cases, the Archivist would be more than grateful for copies of missing photographs.

In more recent times the firm’s representatives have photographed installations in churches when inspecting them for quoting for commissions. Most of this material is un-indexed if not in the relevant church file.

Examples from the Photographic archives are given below.

The Works

This aerial photograph shows the entire Foundry site in the 1980’s, the new foundry (of 1876) to the left, and the 1858/9 buildings to the right. Compare with the earlier photo below, before the area was re-developed in the 1970’s, which also shows the former Foundry House to the right of the Offices.

Inside the works

The Main Erecting Hall in 1913. In the foreground are some of the bells of St Botolph’s church Lincoln, near to the old lever weighing machine.

Visitors from London watching the casting of Houston St Thomas'  bells in 1971.

Job photographs - major commissions

Major commissions were often photographed before departure:

Here the Loughborough War Memorial Carillon bells are lined up before departure, and below, in the process of being delivered to Queens Park.

Jobs - ringing peals

The bells of Earl Shilton before despatch in 1921,

Some photographs of this sort were printed and sold as postcards - collectors’ items, these days - like this one of the fourteen Taylor ringing bells at 7½ Ton Bourdon at Buckfast Abbey (Devon) in 1936

John Taylor & Co
The Bellfoundry
Freehold Street
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 1AR
England
Tel: +44 (0)1509 212241
Fax: +44 (0)1509 263305