[Bell Historians] Thomas Bullisdon

Peter Dyson pete at thedysons.net
Thu Dec 9 12:36:34 GMT 2021

>From my Bellfounder Database, I confirm that my earliest date (from CoP
Rolls) is TB as the Plaintiff in 1495 (Hilary term) against 2 bailiffs from
Essex. He is mentioned in 1498 (H) again as the Plaintiff against 5 Yeomen
from New Braynford in Essex and against 2 people from Abbotys Walden in
Hertfordshire (Bellfounder, Merchant of the Staple) - all debt cases.

Last date is 1515 taken from Elphic, Sussex B&B.

Hope this helps.
Peter Dyson

On Thu, 9 Dec 2021 at 10:38, Richard Smith <richard at ex-parrot.com> wrote:

> Sorry for the barrage of questions – I'm trying to tie up
> some lose ends for a Ringing World article.  This question
> is about Thomas Bullisdon, who can be identified as the
> founder of the five at St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield
> from his mark on the bells, which incorporates his initials.
> One of the better accounts I've read of Bullisdon is in
> Deedes and Walters, 'Church Bells of Essex', though of
> course this was written back in 1909.  It refers to the
> churchwardens accounts of St Mary at Hill in the City of
> London for 1508-11, which had been transcribed by Henry
> Littlehales and published in 1905.  They refer to work done
> to the bells by Bullisdon (spelt various ways, but never
> with a first name), 'Coulverton' (again with no first name)
> and 'Willm Smyth'.  Coulverton is clearly William Culverden.
> Deedes and Watler also refer to the tenor at Weeley, Essex
> with Bullisdon's mark (incorporating his initials) which can
> be dated to 'about 1510' based on the donors, 'Vyllam Brooke
> and Agnes his wyff'.
> Until recently, I think this was all that was known about
> Bullisdon's dates, and this is no doubt why all of his bells
> in Dove are dated c1510.  However, both Dove and Peter
> Dyson's Bell Founders Database list Thomas Bullisdon as
> active between 1495 and 1515.  My guess is that the source
> for both dates is the plea rolls from the Court of Common
> Pleas, which have been digitised and partly indexed in the
> last decade or so by the Anglo-American Law Tradition
> project at the University of Houston.
> 1495 is the year of a suit brought by a Thomas Bullisdon or
> Bullysdun 'bellefounder' (the clerk obviously didn't know a
> suitable Latin word) of Algate [sic], London.  There's no
> suggestion that he necessary started founding in that year –
> rather, this is the earliest date we currently have for him.
> The 1515 date seems to be his date of death, based on the
> assumption that Thomas Bullisdon, the bellfounder of Aldgate
> and Thomas Bullisdon, the skinner of Aldgate are are same
> man.  This seems plausible as the executors of the skinner's
> estate sued William Culverden, a braiser, for settlement of
> a debt.  Culverden was also a bell founder.  There's also a
> record of skinner suing a William Neuport, bell founder, for
> another debt back in 1495, so the skinner evidently had
> close dealings with bell founders, but this doesn't
> necessarily mean he was one as they are not obviously
> related professions.  Perhaps there were two men with the
> same name in Aldgate, maybe a father and son.
> However, in 1498, the founder is also describes as a
> Merchant Stapler.  They are best know for controlling the
> export of wool, but also controlled the export of hides, and
> this would support him being both a skinner and a founder;
> at times they also controlled the export of tin, and just
> possibly this could explain why he was both a founder and a
> stapler.
> I've not heard of any recent accounts of Bullisdon, and I
> can't find anything in the Ringing World index, so I don't
> know whether this is the argument for the 1515 date.
> Perhaps there's a much less circumstantial source which I've
> missed, so my first question is whether there is a better
> source for this date, or whether I have identified it
> correctly.
> Now that we know that Bullisdon was active from at least
> 1495 and may not have lived much beyond 1510, dating his
> bells to c1510 is conservative in the sense that it errs to
> the recent side.  This is entirely consistent with Dove's
> policy, which is a very reasonable one, but it does mean
> some of these bells are quite likely a little older than
> stated.
> The five at Smithfield are probably his most important
> surviving ring.  Is there any reason to date them any more
> precisely than they were cast during Bullisdon's career?
> Specifically, is there any possibility that they could be as
> early as the 1490s?  I'm aware of no records referring to
> bells in the old priory besides John Stow's account which
> does not seem to help here.
> RAS_______________________________________________
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