All the pages on this website have some connection with Henry Penn.
As the research progressed  many paths were crossed.
'Voice of the City'
Since 1709 this one and a half ton bell has rung out from the tower of 
Peterborough Cathedral.
Today it sounds out as the clock chime and the five minute bell
         The bell tower is above the left gable.                           Being removed for refurbishment 1984

Voice of the city .mp3

Listen to this early recording of the five largest bells that Henry Penn cast. 

Peterborough Cathedral five old bells .mp3


Thomas Eyre's map of 1723 showing the City.  The Cathedral can be seen upper right. The site of Henry Penn's foundry is marked with a red dot, near to Bell Dyke.

  It was on this dyke he floated his bells onto the river by barge and on  to their destinations.


This is the same bell as it was hung in the cathedral. Sadly its canons were removed in 1898 and the bell was mounted directly onto the wooden headstock. The wooden stay projecting upwards allows the bell to be set in the upside-down position against the slider for use in change ringing.

Like many Henry Penn (1685-1729) came to Peterborough for work.

 He was a skilled bellfounder with a prize in mind.   The prize was the formidable task of casting a set of ten bells for the Cathedral.  Penn was just one of a number of bellfounders in the area.  Today there are just two in the whole of the British Isles.  This twenty four year old was very sure of himself and if he could scoop this contract his future as a top ranking tradesman would be assured.  He had served his apprenticeship under his  uncle  Henry Bagley at a Bell Foundry at Ecton in Northamptonshire.  It was in this  foundry, back in 1687,  the first ring of ten bells ever to be rung in peal (an octave plus two notes) was new cast for Lichfield Cathedral.   Penn was only two years old at this time but it was with this fact and with his masters tools he was able to secure and undertake the task of the first ring of ten bells in Northamptonshire  nearly 300 years ago. Both these peals of 10 bells were tuned to the key of D major. 

He may have be the first heavy engineer of Eastern Industry Peterborough.

Left the Penn Map shows the 100 known places in thirteen counties for which Penn cast bells. He was the most prolific bellfounder of his time considering he was only 44 when he died.

An American Connections. Benjamin Franklin (born 1706) had family connections in the village of  Ecton Northamptonshire.   His Grandfather Thomas was the Blacksmith.  After his death his son Thomas continued working as a blacksmith. Henry Bagley bellfounder, Henry Penn’s uncle, joined  him in the village in 1687 to help with the bells for Lichfield.

A sad thing happened in 1984 when a ring of new bells was proposed for Peterborough Cathedral. Three of the existing Penn's bells were not to be included.  A group of Americans were in the city at the time and to cut the story short purchased all three.  One weighing a ton was to be used as the-  

Pittsburgh City Bell. Henry Penn was thought to be related to the Penn founders.  This was found not to be the case.  The scheme was never honoured and the 1709 bell has languished in a Pittsburgh store.   This is rather shortsighted as many other Penns and their families from this country helped to build America, the place it is today.

HENRY PENN MADE ME IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1703

Plaster cast of the treble bell made at Holcot All Saints in Northamptonshire.

This was the first and last time he used it.

Horizontally behind 1703 is what looks like an Angel.

This man needed an Angel as he had to cross many difficult pathways in his lifetime.

 

ALL SIX WERE MADE  AT PETERBOROW BY HENRY PENN FOUNDER 1714.

Plaster casts made at St. Peter & Paul at Wrangle in Lincolnshire.

Peterborow is the old spelling for the city.

One can see decorative work between the lettering at both Holcot & Wrangle. This is exactly the same as his master Henry Bagley when he cast six bells for Castor Northanptonshire in 1700.

Bagley died in 1703.

What kinds of signals did bells ring out-


In the mist. Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire. 
Before we had modern communication technology bells were most important in towns and villages.  One of these was the Curfew Bell rung at dusk, when people should be at home.  French (couvre-few) meaning a cover for the fire. In this country the fire stayed lit all year round.  Just covered at night for safety. Workers could be out in the fields or on the Fens not able to find their way home.  If this was the case a relative could go to the church or cathedral, inform the curfew ringer who would continue ringing the bell until the person or persons were home and safe.  Many have been saved in this way.  Some gave large donations to the church concerned.
Just a few of many other bell signals.  Fire bell-Warning of fire.  Passing bell- whilst a person was dying.  Winding bell- wind the dead person in a shroud.  School bell- we all know that.  Oven bell- the baker had finished and one could take their dinner to be cooked at his bake-house.  Early morning bell- before the factory siren- arise and be about you business one of Penn's famous inscriptions on bells.  Angelus bell- Hail Mary full of Grace! All stop where they are for prayer.  Service bell- rung for service, especially weddings. 
             LAYOUT IN BRIDGE STREET

The Voice of the City’ is a depiction of a bell in the stages of being cast.  It is a monument and tribute to Henry Penn (1685-1729).  We could call him the first heavy engineer of Eastern Industry where today there are many more hardworking men and women. 

Penn’s life was relatively short, just 44 years, but during this period he worked and cast bells for as many as 100 churches and houses. Most of these places are shown on the map in the bronze upright case. The painting took the writer some years to complete. The writer has been helping Stephen Broadbent who designed and erected the ‘Voice of the City’ and acted as his historical adviser.

On December sixth late afternoon and about to go home Stephen was still working.  I said ‘thank you Stephen it has been a pleasure and honour working with you’.  He replied ‘Thank you!  If I had not seen your plaque on Henry Penn Walk and found this interesting man 

         there would be no ‘Voice of the City’.

Today we have all kinds of electronic media but in yesteryear messages were sent out mainly by the differing sounds of bells.  Three totem poles have been erected near to the underpass now named ‘Foundry Walk’. The nameplates include two golden bells.  It leads to the site of Penn’s bellfoundry and the cathedral herb gardens. Penn and I, his biographer, have in a way been honoured which makes me feel very proud.    Eight of the children of Dinah and Henry were christened at St. John’s Church near to the Market Square that must make them Peterborians like this old boy who came to the city in the 1930s.

The Voice of the City depicts Peterborough Cathedral clock bell, which has kept time in order for thousands of people over 300 years, one third of the life of the existing building. A cut out section reveals the bell with an inscription by Penn. ‘Arise and be about your Business.’ 

                       He did just that!  

Below- drawings made by the Broadbent team. Set into the bronze upright case left are exact copies of the plaster casts shown above.  Right the pavement surrounded by bell inscriptions.  
 

                             On the base of the map .

The complete display/monument.  Three strickles, bell mould former's coloured blue. Pivoted at the top and bottom they are pulled around wet clay to form the moulds. First strickel forms what is is known as the core. Second the model of the bell to be cast and the third the cope shown in the display. The plume above represents bronze bell metal being poured in.  A cutout shows the bell that has been cast. 
The photo right is the day of the opening 20 December 2017.  This historian stands proud.
I must thank The Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership & the City Council, especially their Planning Department.
    
                  
Stephen Broadbent's website-

https:www.broadbent.studio


Totem poles at night.

TIMBER PLANTER - With designs representing the old quayside next to the foundry, where the bells were loaded onto barges to be taken to churches across the county.

FOUNDRY WALK, leads on past the Totem poles pointing the way  through the underpass which once led to where the Bell foundry of Henry Penn was situated.  It also led to the cathedral herb gardens.  Today it leads past the Lido and on to Bishops Gardens and the cathedral.

The City as it was in the 18th century 
   HENRY PENN WALK
        the north -west embankment of the River Nene was named in 1984.  The writer is Henry Penn's biographer.
He is a bit of a romantic as he is wondering if Penn is watching .

Below the walk with thanks  to Google earth.

St. Andrew Cotterstock Northamptonshire. 

Penn cast four bells for Cotterstock in 1708. Just two remain today. In 2017 they were upgraded to a ring of six. Photograph left shows the ancient treble. Right the same bell with canon retaining headstock ready to be lifted into the tower.  The vicar at the time was the Rev John Loveling whose name is inscribed on the bell . He was also the curate at the nearby village of Glapthorn and schoolteacher at Fotheringhay where he lived in a house in the churchyard. 
Photo extreme right drawings of the scheme by children of Glapthorn Church of England Primary School.

Cotterstock 4 bells August 2017.mp3

This sound file is just four of the bells including the two remaining ancient bells cast by Henry Penn. 
      A receipt from Croft parish church signed  Hen Penn,                                  Invoice to Brownes Hospital Stamford,

   found with other Croft documents in Lincolnshire Archives.                        found at the hospital with 500 other bills.

In 1723 Penn purchased a house.  The deeds right found in the Fitzwilliam collection N.R.O, state that it is north of Westgate Peterborough.
     BELLS PLACE     is just the right position.




What did Penn look like?         Left a statue of Oliver Cromwell 1599-1658.  It is on the Main Street at St Ives Huntingdonshire, The writer thinks he would have dressed in this way but the clothing would have been just a little weather-worn as Penn was an itinerant horseman  needing protection from the weather.
It is also possible that he wore a sword or even a pistol. 
  
Below a plaque in St Ives Parish church gives details of a ring of eight bells cast by Penn for the church in 1723.  Note that the tenor was nearly one ton. This was a bad time for Penn as the churchwardens did not fully pay him as they said the bells were not properly in tune.  
A seven year court case ensued.  Finally at a hearing at Huntingdon, the judge asked the churchwardens have they been ringing  the bells over this period.  The answer was yes.  The verdict was given for Penn and that he should be paid the outstanding debt.   The bronze plaque is dated 1930 so most of the bells were in position at this date.  It may have been cast from the bronze of Penn's bells.   The inscriptions are typical of his work and St. Ives must have been quite proud of them.  In the courtroom  Penn's last words were-'I am sick to death. The whole thing will do me no good.'
He died within hours of the case ending. Whilst mounting his horse  in a hotel coaching yard.  He was forty-four years old.


This wonderful historic photograph was given to the writer and his wife by the churchwardens of Holy Trinity Church at Tichmarsh, Northamptonshire for work done to restore photographs and other documents.  
It is 1913 and the bells on the two carts are to be transported to the railway station on there journey to be recast. Five if the early bells were cast by Henry Bagley in 1688. Bagley was Henry Penn's uncle and foundry master.         The large bell (the tenor) on the rear of the right hand cart was cast by Penn in 1708 and had the inscription-

          JOHN CANNARD GAVE ME  JEFFERY COALES AND JOHN BARNES CHURCHWARDENS  HENRY PENN MADE ME 1708. 
Recasting ancient bells is not allowed today 'thank goodness'.  

 Some names of the men but not in order- L. Hankins, J. Hankins, C. Hankins, A. Mabutt, F. Mabutt, F. Glover, and J. Smith.
We found some of these names on the village 1914-1918 War Memorial. God Bless Them!

All illustrations, photographs and text on this site have copyright.  To use any of the contents please contact-
Michael Lee at pennhenry@rocketmail.com  
Please feel free to make contact regarding the contents of this site.  Some publications are still available.