The Duntroon Bell (Photo S Hall)
Many long term Canberrans will be aware of a large brass bell on a wooden stand at the corner of the Duntroon parade ground. This is a story about the foundry that made that bell, and how maps enhanced my knowledge of the history of the foundry and the people who lived in and operated it. My family operated the foundry from 1781 to 1873 and owned the foundry buildings up to about 1960. I am descended from the sister of the makers of the Duntroon bell.
I find old London street maps very useful for visualising the environment of the census and trade directory records. Two of the most useful are John Rocque’s map of 1746 and Richard Horwood’s map of 1792. Rocque is the basis of The A to Z of Georgian London and can be viewed online at www.locatinglondon.org.
John Rocque Map 1746
Horwood is the basis of The A to Z of Regency London and can be viewed online at www.romanticlondon.org/explore-horwoods-plan/#15/51.5122/-0.0696.
The HAGSOC library has five historical A-Zs of London including these two.
Both maps are large scale (26 inches to the mile) and show many more small alleys and courts than some of the later 19th century London maps. Horwood is particularly useful in showing individual building boundaries together with street numbers. Used in properties by street, and the conjunction with a commercial directory such as Robson’s, which shows Land Tax records, it is possible to very accurately locate a property that you might have found in the census or a baptism record.
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry at the time of its closure in 2017 was the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain having commenced operations in 1570. It had operated on its site on Whitechapel Road since 1739 occupying the site of a former coaching inn “The Artichoke”. The yard of the inn can be seen in Rocque’s map below. Note how the foundry at this date is right on the edge of the urban area of London.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry No. 267
By 1792 on Horwood’s map (see next page) the White-chapel Field Gate shown on Rocque’s map has become Fieldgate Street. In the 46 years between the two maps the city has greatly expanded into the nearby countryside. You can see in this small segment the street numbers that make this map so useful. On the map both Whitechapel Road and Fieldgate Street demonstrate a feature of London street numbering that remained until the late 19th century–numbering was consecutive down one side of the street then crossed over and was again consecutive returning along the opposite side of the street. So in a street with 500 hundred houses, one end would have No 1opposite No. 500 and at the other end No. 250 opposite No. 251.
Thomas Mears II (1777-1851), master founder at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (my great x 4 grandfather), refers to several properties in his will made in 1846:
It is not entirely clear whether Luke is occupying No 35 or the house adjoining. No 35 is shown in multiple directories as Luke Flood Cutbush’s business address. The foundry itself is at 267 Whitechapel Road. A series of maps made for the Goad Insurance Company in 1899 shows these house numbers with the new numbering resulting from the introduction of odd numbers down one side of the street and even numbers down the other side. (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/firemaps/england/london/xi/mapsu145ubu22u11u2uf336r.html)
Fieldgate St house numbers
Unfortunately, Horwood’s map only shows Fieldgate St house numbers up to 29, with 5 un-numbered up to the house on the corner. The Goad map does show 35 Fieldgate Street as part of the building containing the foundry. The foundry building itself seems to have contained a number of apartments, one of which known as the Back Foundry was occupied for a time by John Mears, son of Thomas. John is a bit of a mystery and never formally became a member of the firm. However, many documents show him taking an active part in the operations of the firm and Amherst Daniel Tyssen, a prominent bell historian, credits him with the major part of the work in casting Big Ben. John is the Mears who is living on site in the census. It is quite possible that, with his parents, brothers, and brother-in-law moving out of the foundry site in the 1840s, his father and then his brothers let parts of the building and adjoining properties that they owned as tenements.
Tabulating the results from the directories and census can help in locating a property on a map by using notable buildings as landmarks. The foundry and the George Inn shown on Rocque show up as Nos 267 and possibly 274 the “George and Drag”, occupied successively by William Layton and Frederick Smith:
The Foundry Building in 2010