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Save The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

March 11, 2017
by the gentle author

I am delighted to announce that a consortium of heritage groups have come together in a bid to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry by exploring how the site may continue as a working foundry. We shall be publishing reports on this endeavour as it evolves.

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Bell by Rob Ryan

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The East End Preservation Society has launched a petition to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport to SAVE THE WHITECHAPEL BELL FOUNDRY which is due to shut forever in May after five centuries in the East End.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN

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This letter was published in The Times on March 11th

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Dear Sir,

We the undersigned wish to register our very serious concerns about the imminent loss of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. We are calling on Historic England to ensure the buildings are listed at Grade I, in recognition of their national and international significance.

Bells have been made continuously in Whitechapel since the 1570s. The business has been on its present site since the mid 1740s. It is one of just two remaining bell foundries in Britain, and the foundry is reportedly the oldest manufacturing company in the UK. This is the foundry that made Big Ben in 1858, the world famous US Liberty Bell and many many more. The foundry is set to close at the end of March, and its contents sold at auction.

We are very concerned that we will lose not only specialized jobs and skills, but that this type of business and trade is part of the historic essence of our towns and cities.  How is Britain allowing this national treasure to slip through our fingers?

Yours etc

Henrietta Billings, Director, SAVE Britain’s Heritage
Peter Guillery, Senior Historian & Editor, Survey of London
Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology
David McKinstry, Secretary, The Georgian Group
Will Palin, The East End Preservation Society
Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Arts
Matthew Saunders, Secretary, Ancient Monuments Society
Matthew Slocombe, Director, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
Tim Whittaker, The Spitalfields Trust

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The Spitalfields Trust has submitted an application to Tower Hamlets Council to have Whitechapel Bell Foundry designated as an Asset of Community Value. It would be invaluable if readers can write in support of this application. You might like to say that, after five centuries, the Bell Foundry is an integral part of the historical identity of Whitechapel and that, as well as being a major tourist attraction, it is an important local employer that maintains skills which could easily be lost.

Please write to paul.greeno@towerhamlets.gov.uk

(Even if you write by email please be sure to include your postal address)

If you are sending your letter by post please address it to:

London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Legal services
6th Floor Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
London E14 2BG

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Photographs copyright © Shahed Saleem

You may also like to read about

So Long, Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Rob Ryan, Papercut Artist

53 Responses leave one →
  1. Inma permalink
    March 11, 2017

    Thank you for raising this issue. I was very saddened when I heard about the closure of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Now very pleased that there is still some hope through The Spitalfield Trust bid.

    I would encourage others to write to Tower Hamlets to express their support for the bid in order to keep this great heritage asset.

  2. March 11, 2017

    I hope the foundry can be saved. I will write straightaway. Valerie

  3. March 11, 2017

    Letter of support written & sent – this would be a fantastic & distinctive tourist attraction for London

  4. Jonathan Madden permalink
    March 11, 2017

    This is very good news indeed, in a climate where we are losing so much of our urban past like pubs, shops and small businesses. I would urge everyone to write to Tower Hamlets Council and support the application and preserve this signifant example of our industrial heritage.

  5. March 11, 2017

    I am sure the foundry can be saved, not for big bell manufacture. Above all the ‘Whitechapel Foundry’ brand must be saved this is value added for a future project. The site could be owned/controlled by a consortium of bespoke artisans, with a small area for speciality foundry work. !Yes it has to be a great tourist attraction with big sales here London Auth/Tourist Board please take note. The site has great possibilities, of course it is of great historic value. See my previous blog here under ‘So Long Whitechapel ‘ Dec 2 2016 some issues raised there. Poet John

  6. March 11, 2017

    Thank you. I will write, and I will share this information

  7. Peter Holford permalink
    March 11, 2017

    If this isn’t a heritage asset it’s difficult to see what is. It’s good that so many eminent people and heritage groups are pushing for this. But what about the National Trust? And Historic England should be involved without the need for being pressured, surely. Letter will be sent!

  8. Howard Bowden permalink
    March 11, 2017

    The loss of the Whitechapel foundry is and will be not only a complete travesty to spitalfields but the the nation as a whole , every effort should be made to save this world famous foundry who’s bells chime throughout the world , not only the loss of the foundry but the great skill of those who work in its buildings , who will pass on the knowledge once it’s gone ? Will ours and the worlds bells for silent ? Yes there are other foundrys people may say but , each foundry has an unquie quality a distinct sound that simply cannot be replicated by an other , saveing this foundry is not only helping to save a skill a group of buildings , its saving a tradition a heritage a history , that is known throughout the world , put simply Whitechapel foundry is an important asset to heritage and skills of a craft that needs to be passed on to ensure our bells chime on . Save this foundry invest in skills and craftsmanship

  9. March 11, 2017

    I have always been inspired by the very idea of this place. It would be a crime to lose it.

  10. March 11, 2017

    Thanks for the update on this. I have shared everywhere and I a writing a letter too. I hope it can be saved.

  11. March 11, 2017

    Wishing the venerable conservation bodies ever success.

  12. Paul Loften permalink
    March 11, 2017

    I am very sad to learn that this building is about to close I can remember it from decades ago when I was a child visiting my grandmother who lived nearby. Not only is it an historic site that has been the home to the craft of casting metal which has been a foundation of our civilisation it is also a integral part of our own history . Time moves on but if we cannot respect such a fabulous part of our heritage then the future is that much more of grey and lifeless prospect !

  13. March 11, 2017

    Horrible news, something like this should have government funding to help and keep it alive along side Royal patronage and support. It’s places like this that make Britain so historic and special.

  14. Mike Watson permalink
    March 11, 2017

    The government should only invest in projects which give genuine benefit to all. This means the funding for refurbishing The Palace of Westminster should be allocated to The Bell Foundry.

  15. Charles Gutteridge permalink
    March 11, 2017

    The Whitechapel foundry has been part of my working life for 40 years. I studied at the London Hospital Medical College in the mid seventies and have practised medicine in East London most of the time ever since. There was a tradition in the past for giving handbells cast at the Whitechapel foundry when consultant staff retired. I think the bell that used to sit in the front entrance of the London Hospital before it went Royal was also cast at the foundry.

    The continued life of the foundry as a place for design and making is an admirable undertaking.

  16. Lucy permalink
    March 11, 2017

    A heartening development… Thank you for keeping us informed!

  17. March 11, 2017

    As locally based craftsmen, my husband and I are very sad at the prospect of the closure of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. We work in the glass making trade and understand the difficulties of running businesses involving hand crafted items and the skills and commitment needed to do this well and the importance of the heritage, history and delegation of skills to the next generation. Working with your hands is a skill to be treasured and developed and once a business is gone so are the opportunities to pass them on. This business is part of the creative heritage of the East End and should be preserved as a working foundry with new opportunities for young people to learn and carry it forwards. Please preserve this local treasure!

  18. Swan permalink
    March 11, 2017

    I have written a letter to the local authority.

  19. Linder permalink
    March 11, 2017

    A Bell Museum!

  20. Charles Curnock permalink
    March 11, 2017

    A notional historic asset which should if at all possible be saved. I have very fond memories of visiting a few years ago.

  21. March 11, 2017

    This is the most famous bell foundry in the U.K. And probably the world . It has stood on this spot for centuries. It cannot be allowed to be moved or developed for any reason.

    Tell us what needs to be done to save it.

  22. Terry Smyth permalink
    March 11, 2017

    I took the tour the foundry around five years ago. It was wonderful, and I really wanted to take my grand twins there when they were 10 (which they now are). I only hope the site can be preserved as a working environment, and that tours will still be possible. It is a rare and precious place with an atmosphere like no other.

  23. Susan Beringer permalink
    March 12, 2017

    The Spitlefields Trust application to have the Whitechapel Bell Foundry registered as an Asset of Community Value is a very good idea. This unique Bell Foundry should be saved for future generations so that an ancient skill can be kept alive, can provide work and continue to make and repair Bells for our Churches.

  24. Dawn permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I am fortunate enough to be involved with two rings of church bells which have visited Whitechapel in the last four years, and an amazing set of Handbells which were made and refurbished there. I have never visited myself and hope I still may one day. Will definitely write.

  25. Churchlady320 permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I would STRONGLY suggest employing the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation principles here to shift ownership to the working people to own and operate this foundry. You can easily enough get advice from UK worker cooperative groups or from Mondragon per se. It’s well worth the time put in to save both the site as a heritage monument and as an operating facility. Good luck to all in the important endeavor.

  26. Georgina Southall permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I have written in support of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and have shared and spread the world.
    To loose such a unique place would be a crying shame.
    Georgina Southall

  27. March 12, 2017

    Pasted this all over the net, il pop over next week, and do a painting of it then post that too.

    Best of luck

    Liam

  28. Den Cogan permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I was saddened to learn at the potential loss of this historic foundry. Through all of our combined efforts and support I hope or plea will be heard as clearly as the bells that have rung out across many cities over hundreds of years. I encourage everyone to get this message out there.

  29. jennifer thomas permalink
    March 12, 2017

    Not only does WBF make bells it services all the handbells in the country, ask Handbell Ringers of Great Britain. It also has a huge stock of ringing music, so its much more than a factory!

  30. John Nicholas Edwards permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I have written to TH and hope that pressure will be useful and a working foundry can survive

  31. Judith payne permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I will write NOW

  32. March 12, 2017

    Everything is been said and done already. There exists no valid reason to destroy place that makes instrument of music to bring peace and hope to nature. We need more of these places so we can reduce cost and make it available to farmers. Water responds to music. This is the music that is available to ALL alike. Please

  33. Chris Ashby permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I’ve emailed in support of the Spitalfields Trust application. Thanks for drawing this to our attention. Best wishes, Chris Ashby.

  34. March 12, 2017

    Surely they can cast smaller bells like the hand bells and dinner bells and souvenirs at their Whitechapel shop and move some bigger bells away. I’m sure more people would pay for tours if marketed to tourists

    I visited a couple years ago

    http://jenikya.com/blog/2014/04/whitechapel-bell-foundry.html

  35. Ros permalink
    March 12, 2017

    I have written to Councillor Greeno, though agree that it’s central government who should be encouraging and enabling local authorities to do worthwhile things rather than penalising them. It would be so good if it could be saved, so worthwhile.

  36. March 13, 2017

    I have emailed Paul Greeno. I hope he makes the right decision.

  37. Richard permalink
    March 13, 2017

    The National Trust could step in – but they’re blowing £30M on a pastiche recreation at burnt-out Clandon Park.

  38. Nicola Vinovrski permalink
    March 13, 2017

    Letter written and fingers crossed. I feel the East End’s history is constantly under siege in recent years.

  39. paul loften permalink
    March 13, 2017

    I have sent the following letter
    Dear Mr Green

     I am writing to you in the hope that it is not too late to prevent the closure of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.   As a local I have known about this building and the high level of craftsmanship of the workers for many years.  I have also seen several TV documentaries which explored the talents and skills of the foundry workers.  How is it possible that Tower Hamlets can allow this to happen?  If any pride exists in this borough, this building and what it produces, with the time honoured traditional craft of casting metals, should be your shining star.  Tower Hamlets has recently lost a large part of its tradition of being a home to the arts and crafts with the closure and auctioning off of a large part of Sir John Cass College workshops in Whitechapel and I would appeal to you not to let this essential building which houses this wonderful craft and its workers disappear. In a world that is gradually eliminating the human touch from every sphere of life this is a particular industry that offers hope to us all.  With its disappearance young people will lose yet another opportunity to learn a craft that has been handed down throughout the generations.

    Please act now to save the building and the workers. Such an act would be regarded not only as courageous but also as visionary by the growing numbers of people who admire traditional crafts and skills that take years to learn and practice. It only takes just one poor decision to lose it forever.  I believe that with some imagination and thought enough self-finance projects can be generated to keep The Foundry in business for years to come.

    Yours faithfully

    Paul Loften

  40. Chris Lonie permalink
    March 13, 2017

    I’ve emailed and Tweeted to Rushanara Ali, local MP, about tbis.
    Her Twitter response was supportive, but totally lacking in any concrete offer
    Of help. If we can get her on board, it would be a greatboon. Is anyone on thiscase? And is there a central point where info on this campaign can be found? It seems a bit scattergun at present… I ask, because I am keen to help.

  41. Rosemary Bennett permalink
    March 13, 2017

    I have written to Paul Greeno as suggested and hope many more people will, I feel that if we let TheFoundry disappear without trying we are as guilty as the developers

  42. Jean Chrisp permalink
    March 13, 2017

    A very historical building and an irreplaceable craft!

  43. March 14, 2017

    Glad to see this. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry should be saved.

  44. Jim Hawkins permalink
    March 14, 2017

    Somehow the Whitechapel Bell Foundry must be saved, an important part of the heritage of England.

  45. Clive Funnell permalink
    March 15, 2017

    I was shocked to hear that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry might close. I can understand that the family owners have no obligation to ‘save’ the business, and normally I would have no regrets about other types of business disappearing.

    But the Foundry has a unique combination of heritage, history, artisan skills and manufacturing techniques that must be saved.

    I knew nothing of the Foundry until a ‘tour’ last year, but I was amazed at its very existence these days.

    Surely we can not allow this to disappear, and surely it can be run by custodians in such a way that the skills may be continued, new people trained in the craft, and the buildings saved as a working museum similar to the Amberley ‘chalk pits’ museum in Sussexhttp://www.amberleymuseum.co.uk/, or the Ironbridge museum in the Midlands http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/ ?

  46. Bob Rae permalink
    March 15, 2017

    We’ve just sent an e-mail to the council, urging them to support your bid and pointing out that the foundry is of significance further afield because of the number of churches with bells made in Whitechapel.
    Regards
    Bob Rae and Maggie O’Malley from darkest Sheffield

  47. Robert Guttridge permalink
    March 15, 2017

    As a retired architect I really feel for the foundry to close would be a major mistake.
    An iconic site rich with the history of our nation over the years. A truly unique insight into our English tradition of bell ringing.
    After being involved with listed properties, far less important than the foundry, surely the property should be listed to prevent its demise.

  48. Michael Collins permalink
    March 15, 2017

    Done. I sent an email (with my postal address) to Mr Greeno citing the fact that when I took 5 family members to the foundry for a tour two years ago, we also had lunch locally, paid for an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, made small purchases at independent shops and finshed the outing with cake/coffee in Whitechapel. The foundry was directly responsible for six adults spending cash in the local area that day. And of course, it was would a cultural and economic loss to the area were the foundry to close.

  49. Helen permalink
    March 15, 2017

    I will definitely be writing a letter, having seen this article and watched a tv documentary about The Whitechapel Foundry I feel it is of important historic relevance and should be kept alive. I am so glad that action is being taken to support this and keep it for future generations.

  50. Detta Keane permalink
    March 16, 2017

    Please save the foundry and its majestic abilities for the future.
    Keep it in tact for future generations and for its old London heritage.

  51. Anne Woollett permalink
    March 17, 2017

    Whitechapel bell foundry is amazing. Far too important to lose.

  52. Barbara Hague permalink
    March 18, 2017

    I have written as suggested, and will forward to family members everywhere.

  53. Pauline Poyntz permalink
    March 22, 2017

    I am so thankful to know there is so much support in an effort to save the foundry.
    How many names do we need to have for the petition to be effective?
    I have emailed and f booked and continue to pray.
    Also want to say how much I love the stories and photos on the website.

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