Bells ring to honour industrial pioneer

The bell maker Henry Penn memorial scupture outside the Magistrates Court. EMN-171212-162854009
The bell maker Henry Penn memorial scupture outside the Magistrates Court. EMN-171212-162854009
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The bells will ring out to honour one of the most important men of Peterborough’s industrial past as new art work in the city centre is completed.

The Voice of the City public art scheme has been installed in Lower Bridge Street to honour legendary bell maker Henry Penn.

New artwork in the City Centre EMN-171213-131940009

New artwork in the City Centre EMN-171213-131940009

Mr Penn ran a foundry near Lower Bridge Street more than 300 years ago, and the art includes a huge five metre tall bell, ‘totem poles’ and a planter. The underpass leading to the Lido has also been named ‘Foundry Walk.’

The work has been designed by renowned sculptor Stephen Broadbent, who has produced other projects in cities across the country.

The new Peterborough work has been welcomed by historian Michael Lee, who has spend years researching Henry Penn and his work.

Mr Lee worked closely with Mr Broadbent to ensure the bell’s image was as accurate as possible - as well as providing images and information for the information plaques on the sculpture.

New artwork in the City Centre EMN-171213-131952009

New artwork in the City Centre EMN-171213-131952009

Mr Lee said: “We could call him the first heavy engineer of Eastern Industry where today there are many more hardworking men and women.”

He added: “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.”

The work will officially be unveiled next week.

The funding for the entire project was received through external funding from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.

Historian’s work has helped create ‘The Voice of the City’

Michael Lee said he was pleased the Voice of the City has been installed.

He said: “The Voice of the City’ is a very accurate 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.

Stephen Broadbent who designed the scheme is a very clever and hard working man. He has designed and erected a number of local schemes, one in particular which most of us have seen outside the front entrance of the City Hospital is called the seeds of knowledge, which rise seventy feet out of a book.

The writer has been helping him as historical adviser. On December 6 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’.

I do not intend to explain what the ‘Voice’ has to say but every person who comes to have a look from any country has heard church bells at some time.

Today we have all kinds of electronic media but in yesteryear messages were sent out mainly by the differing sounds of bells. One very interesting call was the Curfew bell rung to warn of dangers, one of which was being lost in the fog. In this city it may have been the fens.

This bell would be rung until all were home and saved many lives. To enhance the area where the ‘Voice of the City’ sits 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 over the busy road past the Lido, Bishops Road gardens, and the memorial to Henry Pearson Gates, first mayor Peterborough. At one time the whole area between the south side of the cathedral and the River Nene belonged to the Minster.

Penn and I, his biographer, have in a way been honoured which makes me feel very proud. The research into this man covers much paper and 30 years of work. I am told that it tells the only story about an early bellfounder complete with his family. 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.

Come to the Voice of the City and look at it with an open mind. A bell in its mould in the final stages of casting. The three strickles that loop the structure are the main tools used to form the inner, outer moulds and what is known as the cope. It 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!

Look at the coloured map. I think the ‘Voice of the City’ will create much interest and many conversations along the main thoroughfare of our city.”