Bell-founder for Churches Throughout England
Richard Phelps (d. 1738) was born in Avebury, Wiltshire, England. Richard was a bell-founder, or a maker of bells, primarily for churches. He was master of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London from 1701 to 1738.
Inscribed on a big bell in St. Paul's Church steeple, London, is the name of Richard Phelps, Whitechapel, London, A.D., 1710.
"The diameter of the bell is about 10 feet, and its weight is generally stated at 4¼ tons. It is inscribed, "Richard Phelps made me, 1716, and is never used except for the striking of the hour, and for tolling at the deaths and funerals of any of the royal family, the Bishops of London, the Deans of St. Paul's, and, should he die in his mayoralty, the Lord Mayor. The larger part of the metal of which it is made formed "Great Tom of Westminster, once in the Clock Tower at Westminster. "(1)
In 1726, a ring of 10 bells were cast by Richard Phelps for St Dionis, Backchurch.(2) "The new ring of 10 bells was purchased for £479.8s from Richard Phelps. They were hung in a new anticlockwise oak frame. A chiming machine was installed to play on all 10 bells at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock every day. The clock struck quarters on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th bells with the hour on the tenor, repeated on the saints bell."
"On the death of James Bartlett in January 1700–1 the Whitechapel foundry passed into the hands of Richard Phelps(3), who was born at Avebury, Wiltshire. He continued at the head of the firm for thirty-seven years, during which time the business grew to be the most successful in the kingdom. His bells are met with in many different localities, and among his best work are the peals at St. Michael Cornhill, St. Magnus, Allhallows Lombard Street, and St. Andrew Holborn. His inscriptions are much longer, if not more intelligent, than those of his predecessors. The following appears on the tenth bell of St. Michael Cornhill:—
To Prayer We Do Call St. Michael's People All We Honour To The King And Ioy To Brides Do Sing Triumphs We Loudly Tell And Ring The Dead Man's Knell.
Phelps is chiefly known as the founder of the great hour-bell of St. Paul's, which now hangs in the south-west tower of the cathedral and bears the inscription: 'Richard Phelps Made Me 1716.' It weighs 5 tons 4 cwt., and its diameter is 6ft. 105/8 in.; this bell is only used for tolling the hour, and for tolling at the death and funeral of a member of the royal family, the Bishop of London, the Dean of the Cathedral, or the Lord Mayor. The larger part of the metal of which it is made belonged to the bell formerly hanging in the clock-tower opposite Westminster Hall and known first as 'Edward,' after the Confessor, and afterwards as 'Great Tom'; the price paid for it was £3,025 17s. 6d. St. Paul's received in 1877 the gift of a new ring of twelve bells cast by Messrs. Taylor of Loughborough, and 'Great Paul' by the same firm, weighing 17 tons, was safely hung in the north-west tower in May 1882.
The latest bell bearing Phelps's name is the priests' bell at St. George's Southwark, inscribed: "R. Phelps 1738 T. Lester Fecit." Phelps died in 1738, and the order for this bell was completed by his foreman Thomas Lester, to whom he bequeathed his business and the lease of the foundry."
^ 1 Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - St. Paul's Cathedral Accessed June 18, 2008.
^ 2 Churchbells of the City of London, St. Dionis, Backchurch, Lime Street Accessed June 18, 2008.
^ 3 British History Online 'Industries: Bell-founders', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2: General; Ashford, East Bedfont with Hatton, Feltham, Hampton with Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton (1911), pp. 165-168. Accessed June 18, 2008.