Downham Bells and Angels .


EDP 1979

Bell being removed for cleaning and refurbishment . 1979 .

Copyright EDP , via DMDHS

This is a photograph from Taylors of Loughborough.     There are others from Taylors but I am not certain they are all of our bells .   It is apparently an almost impossible tower to access all 8 bells and so the bell founders had difficulty .


Pevsner ( and Wright) North West and South Norfolk , 2 , Yale Uni 2002.

St Edmund . W Tower , E.E. and high, and a little odd in its combination of paler true carrstone and the darker rougher ferruginous carrstone conglomerate .   The bell openings have two lights with a separating round shaft in front of a screen of quatrefoils .   A later polygonal stair turret of brick in its upper parts , cuts into the N bell opening .


Downham Market ,, its church and history .  By the Rev John Dixon Wortley , MA , 1924.

The Tower contains eight bells , which were rehung in 1896 , when the tower and spire were restored .  The bells bear these inscriptions .  :- 

1 . T Osborn 1787.

ll . Cum vogo venite, J Eayre fecit 1771 .

lll .  Henry Edgar and Richard Carter , Churchwardens – this bell was raised by subscription- 1766.

lV . Osborn and Arnold ,, St Neots Hunts fecit . The gift of the Rev Dr Poynt,  Rd Layton and Rogr Powditch , Churchwardens . 1774.

V. Joseph Eayre , St Neots, fecit 1769.

V1.  The gift   (filed away ) Joseph Eayre fecit 1767. 

V11. Pack and Chapman of London fecit 1771 .

V111 . Arnold and Osborn St Neots fecit 1773 . 

The tenor bell is 40 inches in diameter and weighs 12 cwts .    .

(NB Henry Oakes , grocer  ,1881 , unmarried ,living with 2 unmarried sisters, Rebecca ,59 and Ann, 51, and 2 male assistants and 2 female servants.) 


Recently the 8 bells have had an automatic chiming system added to them . This now ensures that the quarters and hours will be rung . It does not preclude the hand ringing of the bells as the new system can be overridden.. The work was done in 2018 and 2019 by Taylors of Loughborough .

The 8 bells are in age starting 1766, no makers name but donated by subscription . Then 1767 , made by Joseph Eayre, fecit , 1767 , the gift of ??? this wording has been filed off at some time in the past . Then 1769 also Joseph Eayre , fecit , St Neots . In 1771 , two bells this year , one made by J Eayre , and the other by Pack and Chapman of London . Then in 1773 , Arnold and Osborn, St Neots and they also made a 1774 bell as Osborn and Arnold , of St Neots , and finally in 1787 the last one is made by T Osborn .

There was a foundry here in Downham from probably after the death of Joseph Eayre in 1772 . Thomas Osborn had been his foreman and worked with Edward Arnold , Joseph Eayre`s nephew , at St Neots after Eayre`s death , until he left to return to his birthplace of Downham Market .

The earlier foundry was established in 1716 at Kettering by Thomas Eayre and his cousin . Joseph Eayre was bapt as an adult in 1731 and moved to St Neots shortly afterwards His bell foundry was in the grounds of the Priory , a lofty brick built building in the shape of a bell . And the earliest known Joseph Eayre bells are 5 cast for Chatteris , four of which survive today .

It is thought that he cast as many as 182 bells during his working life , from 1735 – 1772 , and his heyday was the 1760s when he cast 71 . There is a list of 44 churches where these bells were installed including Liverpool and Dublin as well as local churches . The logistics of getting completed bells from St Neots to Dublin defies imagination .

By the beginning of the 19th century , the bell foundry was run by William Dobson who was a grandson of Thomas Osborn .

This advertisement was found in the local paper , The Cambridge Chronicle and Journal ,” Friday 26th July 1816 . To be sold at auction at the Crown Inn ….the following estate in Downham of Mr Wm Dobson , Bell founder, who has engaged another situation at a distance .

Lot 1 . Capital double roofed brick and tiled messuage , sash fronted , now divided into 2 dwelling houses in the High Street , ( but which at trifling expense be converted into one ) , comprising three rooms , two kitchens , and a brew house on the ground floor , five chambers , two good cellars , well paved yard, and grass plot situate in High Street, now in the occupation of Wm Dobson and Mr Isaac Bell . ( William Dobson married Martha Bell in Downham in 1807 ).

Lot 2 . A brick and tiled barn and stable adjoining Mr Gilbert`s premises and abutting onto the Church Hill .

Lot 3 . A most substantial brick and tiled building two stories , 32 x 19 x 22 in height used as a carpenters shop and brass foundry .

Lot 4 . All that very large and extensive brick and tiled building now used as a Bell foundry , with the blacksmiths shop , loam house and yard . As now staked out .

NB The furnace in the bell foundry is to be taken by the proprietor and the brass furnace and the rest of the fixtures by the purchaser .”

In 1807 Wm Dobson made 5 bells for St Edmunds Emneth . Two engraved with the words, Long live King George the third , and The Lord to praise my voice I will raise . There were apparently 3 bells in Emneth from the time of 6 Edward Vl .

William Dobson disappears from the trade directories around 1833.

The 1766 bell with the inscription , partly hidden , starting ” Henry Edgar..”



The first of the identifiable angels is the one above which Wortley says is “Or on a bend azure , three rams heads erased argent attired of the first .”   For the Benedictine Abbey at Ramsey .

Next is  “Azure three cinquefoils or , Bardolf .”

St George , ”  Argent a cross gules .”

Next is “Azure three crowns or  , East Anglia “.


The next is the shield of the Passion “three nails, points downwards , the one in pale between two others  , the one in bend and the other pointing toward the dexter base point . ” 

shield of the passion.

Next is “Three escallops for St James , azure three escallops or . “

St James