Many visitors to the Almshouse may be unaware that within the wooden framed cupola is the original bell. The bell weighs approximately 75 kg and is 510 mm in diameter. There is a two lined inscription
THIS BELL BELONGS TO THE ALMES HOVSE OF CORSHAM
THE HONORABLE DAME MARGARET HVNGERFORD JVNE 16 FOUNDER 1668
The founder is inscribed as Thomas Bartlett. Interestingly, Thomas Bartlett (TB) died in 1632 and was succeeded by his son Anthony (AB) whose initials were not used until 1640, possibly because he was juvenile and had to serve his apprenticeship. But why after 28 years was his father’s mark still being used?
The most likely reason being that with the turmoil of the Civil War (1642) followed by the Commonwealth the firm would have been in recession and continued to use many of the original moulds! Maybe they had to wait for the Fire of London 1666 before business had a chance of recovery!
Within living memory the bell has only been rung on two occasions; to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on the 6th June 1977 when, because of the precarious state of the bell mechanism the clapper was rung against the bell (and not the other way about), and then again after the refurbishment on 18th April 2002 to accompany the Reopening Ceremony.
Interestingly the Whitechapel Foundry passed into the hands of Richard Phelps who originated from Avebury. As Lady Margaret was the daughter of Sir Edward Halliday, a former Lord Mayor, we have a further London connection.