Skip to content

Delivering The Bell Foundry Petition

April 20, 2017
by the gentle author

Yesterday, Dan Cruickshank and representatives of leading heritage groups delivered a petition of more than ten thousand signatures to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture and Sport, accompanied by the following letter.


Dear Secretary of State,

We, the undersigned national and local organisations, wish to express our deep concern about the imminent loss of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and have also strongly registered our views with Historic England.

Our campaign has been supported by many high-profile individuals in the arts and cultural world including architect, writer and TV presenter George Clarke, author Charles Saumarez Smith, historian Dan Cruickshank, architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, sculptor Sir Antony Gormley and many more. The petition attached has been signed and supported by over 10,000 individuals in just three weeks.

We also wish to highlight the exceptional historical and cultural significance of the site that has been at the heart of British bell casting for centuries. The business, principally the making of church bells, has operated continuously in Whitechapel since at least the 1570s. It has been on its present site with the existing house and office buildings since the mid 1740s. In our view this uniquely important historic asset should be properly protected and celebrated through listing at Grade I.

A straightforward redevelopment of this site is not the only option. The UK Heritage Building Preservation Trust which owns and manages Middleport Pottery in Stoke, has made an open request to the owners of the buildings and business to defer the current sale. This would enable an alternative model to be assembled which would save the foundry for the nation where it has been in continuous operation for over 250 years.

We, along with thousands of other people, ask you to understand our concerns and respond accordingly.


Yours faithfully,

Tom Antoniw, The East End Preservation Society

Henrietta Billings, Director, SAVE Britain’s Heritage

Peter Guillery, Senior Historian and Editor, Survey of London

Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology

David McKinstry, Director, The Georgian Group

Matthew Saunders, Secretary, Ancient Monuments Society

Matthew Slocombe, Director, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

Tim Whittaker, The Spitalfields Trust


“The world famous Whitechapel Foundry is a landmark – both for its splendid use and its fine historic buildings. Bells cast at the foundry have sounded in cities around the world for hundreds of years. For many, that sound represents the heart and soul of the London, and in the case of Big Ben in the Palace of Westminster it is the sound of Freedom. The existing buildings deserve the highest level of recognition and protection as a unique and important part of our heritage.” – Dan Cruickshank

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

You may also like to read about

Royal Jubilee Bells At Garlickhythe

The Most Famous Bells in the World

An Old Whitechapel Bell

A Visit To Great Tom At St Paul’s

A Petition to Save the Bell Foundry

Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

So Long, Whitechapel Bell Foundry

17 Responses leave one →
  1. Robin permalink
    April 20, 2017

    Best of luck (fingers crossed). I signed this petition and hope every single “voice” is heard as loudly as every bell born in the Foundry over these many ,many years.

  2. April 20, 2017

    I hope very much that the petition will be considered. Valerie

  3. April 20, 2017

    Great letter, petition looks fantastic!

  4. Robert Redford permalink
    April 20, 2017

    Here’s hoping that this petition will be heard and achieve its aim. Excellent work by all concerned; let the City bells ring out loud and clear to save this historic foundry.

  5. April 20, 2017

    Excellent news.

  6. April 20, 2017

    I am glad Dan is upfront good pics shown at No 10. As we all know we are in a political vacuum, have already blogged in support of this appeal. I expect the petition is now on hold and will go into the new Ministers in-tray. As the House has ‘gone down’, we cannot expect a quick answer. I sincerely hope the foundry owners will hold off for the sale, pending the Ministers decision. All fixtures and stock items held on site should not be moved. This is a National treasure and must be saved for the nation. Poet John

  7. April 20, 2017

    Excellent work
    Bon chance!
    This is a special group of buildings and a local landmark of great significance
    We must all fight for its survival

  8. JenniB permalink
    April 20, 2017

    Well done, good luck – let us hope someone has even a modicum of sense..

  9. April 20, 2017

    I wish the petition every success – it certainly deserves it. However, I fear there will be too much “other business” on every politician’s mind at the moment.

  10. April 20, 2017

    Thank you for all your efforts. Praying that we soon hear bells pealing to celebrate success with this petition

  11. April 20, 2017

    I wish you every success.

  12. Gary Arber permalink
    April 20, 2017

    An ideal solution would be for the site to be developed with a resident curator, in the way that Dennis Severs house is now being run.

  13. April 20, 2017

    “…….it is the sound of Freedom.”
    Fingers crossed for a great outcome.
    Thanks for the awareness, and the opportunity to be part of this worthy intervention.

  14. Helen Breen permalink
    April 20, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thank you for continuing your good work of historical preservation for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Certainly the name of Dan CRUIKSHANK should carry some cultural heft if he is a descendant of George Cruikshank (1792-1878), the British caricaturist and friend of Dickens.

    Good luck to all …

  15. Coralie Mattys permalink
    April 20, 2017

    I so agree with everything you’ve said here and hope that there is sufficient sense and sensibility to bring success to your campaign. If you need any more signatories to anything, please let me know. Thanks

  16. April 20, 2017

    When I visit London it is because of places like the Whitechapel Bell Foundry…those bits of London that are the real London. With such history (and being such a wonderfully historic building) the Bell Foundry (and other bits of vintage London) must be preserved, curated and nurtured. Sadly, we are seeing the demise of the London so many of us love, as more and more of it succumbs to the increasing rise of culture-killing commercialism. Whitechapel is an example of contrasts that reveal how much more desirable the ‘human scale’ element of the city is compared to the high-rise office blocks and impersonal glass-and-steel shop fronts that are making London look and feel like some anonymous place in America.

  17. Denise permalink
    April 20, 2017

    Gentle Author-
    Thanks for the hours of good reading during a long, rainy Oregon winter. So many parallels to what is going on in Spitalfields with what is going on in my historic neighborhood in Portland. Thanks for giving the “preservationists” among us a model for using our voices for local color and character. Thanks for honoring the beauty of “everyday” in time and locality. To the Bell folks, rooting for the success of your petition way across the world and hoping Gardner’s store stays open, too!

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS