When one thinks of old trades in Worcester, we think about Worcestershire Sauce, Royal Worcester Porcelain or even the numerous Glove Factories such as Fownes and Dents.

However, often forgotten are the many bell foundries that were once scattered across the city.

This trade was once very big in Worcester and started in the Medieval period, reaching a peak in the 17th Century just before the period of the English Civil Wars.

Church bells produced the loudest man made noise until the invention of Gunpowder. The word bell comes from the Saxon word 'Bellan' to mean bellow or bawl. Church bells would ring to start and end the day and to warn people. The bells of St Andrew’s Church was once the fire alarm for the Guildhall! The ringing of the bells called people to help fight a fire at the Guildhall.

Bells are also used for sad events such as the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 and to celebrate good times such as the Coronation of King Charles III last month.

Some of the oldest bell foundries and associated businesses in Worcester date back to the 13th century. Simon the Bellyeter worked in Sidbury in 1226. In 1306, John Bellyeter became the sheriff and ran several sites across Worcester.

If you walk through the Crowngate, you will see a clock tower near Huntingdon Hall that chimes on a regular basis. This is built over the site of a large Bell foundry that stood in what was once called Powick Lane.

On the wall is a brass plaque, explaining this history. It also shows an illustration of the casting of church bells on site. This foundry was in use in the 15th century and operated for many years.

John Martin was an owner of a foundry located in Silver Street. This family business began in the early 1600s and when John died his son, also called John, took over. He owned the business from 1697 and in his lifetime produced at least 172 bells, of which 94 were hoisted into belfries across Worcestershire. St Swithun's Church is the proud owners of three, ‘John Martin’ church bells.

When John inherited the business, an inventory listed a whole host of equipment including cranes, ropes, pulleys, bellows, furnaces and 900cwt of mixed, old brass. The business was located behind his house like most 17th century businesses.

In 2010 we took part in an exciting project with the some of the city churches and the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology department. Paul played John Martin. An excavation also took place in the area of what became the St Martin's Quarter. This was in the area of the Martin's home and the adjoining Pheasant Meadow.

Pheasant Meadow was also called Bell Meadow in days gone by. Several artefacts were found directly linked to the Bell making process. Moulds and casting waste were discovered.

It's sad that today the sound of ringing bells is often drowned out by modern noise - traffic, roadworks and jet aircraft. We would highly recommend finding a quiet place near the river on a Sunday and listen out for the sound that has been heard since the early days of Christianity.