Lewis Cockey came to Frome about 1685 from Warminster where the family had long been established as clockmakers. He began casting church bells and lived at 45 Milk Street, known then as ‘The Bell House’, probably using the space at the side, now its garage, for his bell casting. A foundry was soon established in the appropriately named Bell Lane opposite, since demolished. At least 23 towers in Somerset and over 40 in Wiltshire and Dorset have Cockey inscriptions on their bells. After 1752 it seems the bells were cast elsewhere, placing the orders and collecting the accounts being undertaken in Frome.
Later the family diversified and in the early 19th century began casting for the Gas Industry. Edward Cockey (1781-1860) became a successful iron-founder and in 1816 founded the firm which by 1851 was employing 76 men and boys in the Palmer Street foundry as Edward Cockey & Sons Ltd. In 1886 this became a limited company and in 1893 the work moved to Garston. Thanks to Cockey, Frome had gas street liqhting as early as 1831. The ‘art nouveau’ light standards with their leaf pattern were made by Cockey for gas and later converted to electricity. They are now listed as of architectural importance. In this century Frome Gas Company, founded by Cockey, was taken over by that of Bath and eventually the firm ceased in the 1960’s. The firm wound up voluntarily in April 1960 but its memory remains with bollards, drain covers and lamp standards, many displaying the name.
Despite Edward having 16 children, there are no Cockeys left in Frome now.