Bell will ring out to mark industrial past

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The Voice of the City’s industrial past will ring out in Peterborough thanks to a new sculpture being installed in the city.

The work of bellmaker Henry Penn will be honoured with the sculpture, which is being installed in Lower Bridge Street near the Rivergate shopping mall.

Mr Penn, a UK-wide renowned bellmaker, had his foundry set up near the court buildings in the city, and the bell-shaped sculpture - titled ‘Voice of the City’ - will honour his work.

He cast more than 250 bells at his Bridge Street foundry. A canal called ‘Bell Dyke’ ran to the rear of the foundry, joining the River Nene, on which many of his bells were floated to their destinations. The bells, mainly large and cast in bronze, went to more than 100 buildings, churches, houses and schools in 13 counties in England. In 1709 he cast the first ring of 10 bells for Peterborough Cathedral.

Along with the sculpture, there will also be information boards about his work, and the subway leading from Lower Bridge Street to the Key Theatre Car Park will be re-named Foundry Walk. The sculpture will also be located just a few feet away from Henry Penn Walk, which runs along the River Nene near Rivergate.

The sculpture, which is being created by Broadbent Studios, will be the final piece of the £2.1 million redevelopment of Lower Bridge Street.

Hole for Henry Bell statue being dug at Lower Bridge Street. EMN-170928-170926009

Hole for Henry Bell statue being dug at Lower Bridge Street. EMN-170928-170926009

As part of the redevelopment, new railings featuring bells have also been installed outside Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

Toby Wood, from the Peterborough Civic Society, said: “Not only is this a welcome addition to the recent public realm improvements but it also connects well with the existing plaque on Henry Penn Walk next to the River Nene.

“Henry Penn was a nationally renowned bell founder and his firm was possibly Peterborough’s first engineering works. The creator of the sculpture, Stephen Broadbent, has a national reputation for producing public art that is both accessible and high quality.

“The Society hopes that this excellent initiative leads to further interesting sculptures being commissioned to enhance the city’s landscape.”

official opening of the henry penn walk near the embankment ENGEMN00120121005133714

official opening of the henry penn walk near the embankment ENGEMN00120121005133714

The cost of the sculptures is included in the £2.1 million to redevelop Lower Bridge Street, and funding for the entire project was received through external funding from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.

The re-paving of the street, along with other improvements, was completed in July - however, the works to fit the sculpture have just started. A spokesman for Peterborough City Council said the works could not start before as the art was not completed, and they did not want to leave a hole in the ground for health and safety reasons. The sculpture will be unveiled in November.