Bell Foundry Lane

The Eayre family, grandfather, father and son were all named Thomas. The grandfather (Thomas I) was a blacksmith and a Quaker, but Thomas II, his son born 1691 was not. Thomas II started his career as a clockmaker and repairer. He made and repaired clocks for the local gentry, especially at Deene Hall, and local churches.

Thomas II was also a skilled draughtsman and illustrator, amateur architect and archaeologist. In this capacity, in 1719, he was approached by Sir John Bridges who lived at Barton Hall, for help with his grand project to document the history of Northamptonshire. Accompanied by Peter Tillemans, another artist, they all set off. Several of Thomas’ maps, diagrams of archaeological sites, and line drawings of buildings appeared in the published History and Antiquities of the County of Northamptonshire in two volumes. Kettering Library holds copies of this work.

In 1721 Thomas II made map of Kettering town for John Bridges. It is extremely precise and shows the layout of the streets in a pattern that is still recognizable today. He also produced a full-scale map of the county at a scale of 1” to the mile, which was first published in 1768 and engraved in 1779.

This remarkable man had many talents, but is probably best remembered for his bells. Thomas II and his brother set up the bell foundry in 1717. Over the years it is reckoned that the foundry here produced over 200 bells for churches in many counties. The Parish Church in Kettering in 1733 gave Thomas an order for a new set of bells. The repertoire was capable of 11 tunes, and for many years marked the passage of time for residents of the town. The bells were restored 1872, and eventually removed forever in 1890.

Working with his son, Thomas III, between 1757 and 1762 this site saw the production of at least 27 bells. Locally, his bells may be heard in the churches of Brigstock, Kettering, Grendon, Gretton, Warkton and Stamford and many others. Mostly he contributed one or two bells to the churches concerned, but at Gretton all five bells were cast by him. He died in 1757 and his son continued in business alone. Lack of clients, and competition from elsewhere drove him out of business and he was declared bankrupt in 1762. An uncle, Joseph established a bell foundry in nearby St Neots and continued the family tradition for years after.

Northamptonshire Past and Present Vol. 5 1952. Northamptonshire Records Society.
A History of Kettering. R L Greenall.
Northamptonshire in the Early Eighteenth Century. Bruce A Bailey.

Researched by Bernadette Millar

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