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Bury St Edmunds historian Martyn Taylor explains how the town's Bell Meadow development got its name





Bell Meadow, a large cul-de-sac development off Fornham Road, owes its name to a medieval draper called John Perfey.

Perfey was a tenant of the manor of Fornham All Saints and, after returning from the Manor Court there, is said to have lost his way home in fog and was in a ‘perilous situation’, as quoted in one account, the land here probably marshy due to its proximity to the River Lark.

Perfey then he heard St Mary's Church curfew bell toll and, using this for guidance, made his way home.

John Perfey found his way to safety after hearing Bury's curfew bell. Picture: Martyn Taylor
John Perfey found his way to safety after hearing Bury's curfew bell. Picture: Martyn Taylor

The curfew bell was rung to instruct the town's gatekeepers to close the gates for security.

By his will of 1509 Perfey left some land to the churchwardens of St Mary's in order for a bell to be rung at four in the morning and nine in the evening during summer and at six and eight in wintertime.

The ringing of the curfew bell was only discontinued in recent years with the land, now aptly named Bell Meadow, being owned by St Mary's until sold in 1926.

Bell Meadow in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Paul Derrick
Bell Meadow in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Paul Derrick

In 1863 a filtration plant was opened in Bell Meadow – the first real attempt to deal with the town’s sewage.

Just a few years ago, footings being dug for an extension to a property uncovered an unwelcome feature, a large red brick culvert. Thought to be part of the sewage works, it ran from Bell Meadow diagonally to the rear of the Tollgate pub.

A section of it was large enough to stand up in and the cost of filling it up with concrete at the behest of the building inspector was an unexpected expense for the home owner.

The exact nature of this has never been properly understood or explained; perhaps, after all, it was linked to the settling tanks and was carrying water to the River Lark.

Martyn Taylor. Picture: Mecha Morton
Martyn Taylor. Picture: Mecha Morton

Martyn Taylor is a local historian, author and Bury Tour Guide. His latest book, Going Underground: Bury St Edmunds, is widely available