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Joseph Howarth’s Handbell

circa 1850

This handbell was used by Joseph Howarth who served as Oldham’s Town Crier for over 40 years.

Joseph Howarth was born in Oldham in 1786. He was blind from birth and was known locally by the affectionate nickname of ‘Blind Joe’.

He served as Oldham’s town crier for 40 years between 1820 and 1860. His excellent memory meant that he could repeat any messages (or even entire chapters of the bible) after hearing them only once.

The statue erected in his memory in Alexandra Park in 1868 was Oldham’s first piece of public art. As the statue was unveiled this bell was rung once more for the crowd to hear. The mayor observed: ‘Some towns did not do these things till they had got or reared a statesman, but the Oldham people were not waiting so long as that, seeing they could erect a statue even for a bellman.’