The Bell Foundries of Evesham
with Chris Povey
Thursday 26 January 2017
Judging by the long and lively question and answer session which took place after Chris Povey’s talk on the bell founders of Evesham, there is certainly a lot of interest in campanology among the members of the Historical Society.. Chris is the Ringing Master of Evesham’s Bell Tower, and his knowledge of bell ringing and bell casting is second to none.
The first known work on how to cast a bell was written – in 1280 – by a monk of Evesham Abbey – William de Odyngton. 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 almonry. There is scarcely a church in the Vale that doesn’t have at least one bell cast at the Evesham foundry between the years of 1660 (possibly even earlier) and 1711, when the site was sold. (The indenture of sale mentions “the Bell Barn …now in the tenure of William Clark, Bell Founder”).
The most famous Evesham bell-founding dynasty were the Bagleys – father, son and nephew. 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. This is John Taylor of Loughborough – the largest foundry in the northern hemisphere. The foundries also diversify into other areas: for example the John Taylor works was asked to cast replica cannon for the Mary Rose.