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The Pennington Family - Bell Founders

Calstock Tenor Bell

Over a period of 200 years the Pennington family cast around 1,000 bells mostly for churches in the West Country. About 250 bells were cast for Cornish towers, the earliest still in existence being at St Allen, cast in 1622 by Robert Pennington. Today, according to Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers, around 200 remain in Cornwall and a further 450 in Devon.

The activities of the family were fairly widespread: Robert, Fitz-Antony and Christopher Pennington were casting in the Bodmin area from around 1620 to 1669 with a small gap during the interregnum; two generations of John were casting in Monmouth and three generations of Thomas Pennington seem to have cast bells in Exeter over a similar period. However, it was the branches of the family based in Lezant and later Stoke Climsland that were the most prolific. From 1691 to 1767 various combinations of Christopher (II and II), John (II and III) and Fitz-Antony (II) Pennington based in Lezant cast over 100 bells. By 1762 the Pennington family was predominantly operating from Stoke Climsland with over 400 bells being cast with the initials of William, Christopher (IV) and John (III and IV) or simply the name Pennington or I.P. and Co. (I standing for Iohannes).

If the number of bells still existing is a reflection of the number originally cast, then it would seem that the boom years were in the three decades from 1760 to 1790; half the surviving Pennington bells were cast over this short period. Whether this is the result of the popularity of ringing, improved technology in the bell foundry business, increased wealth in the area, perhaps flowing from the mining industry, changing perceptions within the church or expansion of the family, allowing them to make a wider range of contacts, is impossible to say.


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