William Dobson

William Dobson was a bellfounder working in Downham Market, Norfolk in the early 19th century. He inherited the bellfoundry in 1806 from his grandfather Thomas Osborn who originally worked with Joseph Eayre in St Neots and moved to Downham Market in the middle of the 18th century. Among peals by William Dobson which still survive, some since retuned, are Wisbech (his only surviving ten), eights at Ashbourne, Diss, Elland, Liversedge and Poole, several sixes and fives, and a considerable number of individual bells. He cast a twelve for St Nicolas, Liverpool in 1812, since replaced. Dobson sold his foundry to Mears in 1833 and left the trade, going to work in a lawyer’s office in London.

William Dobson’s bells are tonally of high quality. His best bells are closer to true-harmonic than those of any UK bellfounder until Taylors re-discovered true-harmonic tuning, following Simpson’s papers, in the mid 1890s. In a true-harmonic bell, three of the five lowest partial frequencies (the hum, prime and nominal) are in perfect octaves. Dobson’s bells are consistently better than those of his grandfather Thomas Osborn.

Comparison of Dobson’s bells with other bells of the period

William Dobson’s biggest bell

St John, Burslem – a William Dobson six