I’m sure you don’t know, as I didn’t know until a few years ago in 2017, that Peterborough had a 18th Century Bell Foundry along the River Nene? I only found out after they placed a wonderful monumental bell outside the Magistrates court on Bridge Street where Henry Penn’s foundry would have been!

The first remembrance is a bell, three strickles and a limestone mould that sits centre stage of the walkway. Not just some boring bell, but a beautiful piece of artwork which has been deeply thought about in its creation and a clever way of showing us how bells were created. They went out to Cathedrals, churches, schools, houses and buildings in as many as 13 counties.

At the age of 24, Henry Penn cast the first ring of 10 bells for Peterborough Cathedral. Apparently, the largest bell weighed one and a half tons! Its name, the ‘City Bell’, originally sitting inside the tower – now rings out from the Cathedral clock. ‘The Voice of the City’ monument depicts this bell’s journey: being cast in its mould, changing from molten bronze to a finished bell, made in the foundry – a wonderful part of this is the bronze plume above which depicts bronze being poured into the mould. The base of the bell frame has some bell inscriptions too like; The School Bell. The Passing Bell (for when people passed away). The Angelus Bell (a notice to pray). The Curfew Bell. The Early Morning Bell. Wedding Bells.

Standing behind it is a bright and colourful map, encased in bronze,. It shows no less than 100 places where Penn’s bells were sent, including 6 which were placed in Cathedrals. In fact, over 250 bells were cast here back then and he became the most prolific bellfounder of his time.

On every bell there were always words colourfully written with decorative work between the lettering by Henry. You’ll see a copy of a plaster cast on the plaque with the words; ‘Henry Penn made me in the year of our Lord 1703’ and on another, ‘All six were made at Peterborow by Henry Penn Founder 1714’. (No, it’s not a spelling error it’s how Peterborough used to be spelled.)

Other items around this area are; the Foundry Walk underpass and pathway with black railings engraved with a bell icon – this leads right up to the Lido area, three totem poles where the river would have flowed, a curved wooden flower planter depicting the river’s edge and the quay or landing stage called ‘Bell Dyke’ – the bells were cast here then floated down to barges on the river via the dyke to travel to their destinations. Lastly, a pathway along the riverside called ‘Henry Penn Walk’, again with a small informative plaque by Peterborough Civic Society.

You’ll find more details by Mr Michael Lee about Henry Penn and the foundry at www.pennhenry.co.uk. The ‘Voice of the City’ bell monument was created by renowned sculptor Stephen Broadbent.

Written for Spark Magazine. Article 8 for May 2021.

WeLovePeterboroughAuthor posts

Avatar for WeLovePeterborough

Founder and owner

Comments are disabled.