THERE is certainly a lot of interest in campanology among the members of the Historical Society, judging by the long and lively question and answer session which took place after Chris Povey’s talk on the bell founders of Evesham on the evening of Thursday 26 January. Chris is the Ringing Master of Evesham’s Bell Tower, and his knowledge of bell ringing and bell casting is second to none.
Did you know that the first known work on how to cast a bell was written by a monk of Evesham Abbey - William de Odyngton? That was in 1280. Evesham Abbey was one of the most important and wealthiest in the country and is almost certain to have cast its own bells, though the place where this was done isn’t certain. What is certain is that, thanks to some very clever detective work by Chris, the location of the later Evesham foundry is known. It was to be found at the site of the present Abbey Gatehouse, next to the Almonry Museum (just about where the blue plaque is today; apparently the gatehouse itself was situated between the bell foundry and the museum).
There is scarcely a church in the Vale that hasn’t got at least one bell cast at the Evesham foundry between the years of 1660 (possibly even earlier) and 1711, when the site was sold (Chris actually has a copy of the indenture - a contract between John Rudge and Francis Rogers whereby a piece of land is sold together with the Bell Barn “…now in the tenure of William Clark, Bell Founder”).
The Bagleys were the most famous Evesham bell-founding dynasty. Indeed tradition has it that Henry Bagley cast three bells for the bell tower in 1664 to celebrate the restoration of the monarchy.
Sadly nowadays there is only one bell foundry left in the country after the closure of the Whitechapel Foundry. That is John Taylor of Loughborough – the largest foundry in the northern hemisphere. One interesting snippet that came to light after a question as to whether there was currently, and had been historically, enough demand for bells to make bell-casting profitable, is that there is scope for some diversification; the John Taylor works, for example, was asked to cast replica cannon for the Mary Rose.
The Society’s season of talks continues on the evening of Thursday 23 February, when Tim Porter will be talking about Muzio Clementi, the composer and piano manufacturer who was born in Rome and died at Evesham.
For more information visit the Society’s website: www.valeofeveshamhistory.org or contact the Secretary, Gerry Harte, on 01386 870665.