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A Bell-Themed Boutique Hotel?

February 3, 2019
by the gentle author

Visualisation of the hotel lobby, showing the pit where Big Ben was cast


Raycliff Capital, the developers who want to turn the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a bell-themed boutique hotel, have submitted their application to Tower Hamlets council for change of use from foundry to hotel. Now you get to have your say. Would you rather have the Whitechapel Bell Foundry converted into an upmarket hotel or would you rather it was a foundry, continuing a tradition of casting bells in Whitechapel that dates back to 1363?

A choice has to be made and Tower Hamlets council must establish which is the OPTIMUM VIABLE USE – this is a term in planning law which means the ideal purpose for a building. Since the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was built as a foundry and worked as a foundry for centuries, it is self-evident that this is the OPTIMUM VIABLE USE, not a boutique hotel.

United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (a charity with a distinguished track record in heritage-led regeneration) have announced a partnership with Factum Foundation (a global leader in the use of technology for the preservation of heritage and maker of sculptures for some of the world’s most famous artists). Together, they have the resources to buy the buildings off the developer at market value and re-open them as a foundry, re-equipped with up-to-date machinery, for the production of bells and art casting.

Bippy Siegal, the New York tycoon who owns Raycliff Capital often works with business associate Richard Caring in hotel projects. Recognising that there is a viable alternative to their boutique hotel proposal, Raycliff Capital have appropriated the language of their rivals by claiming they are actually ‘reinstating a foundry,’ meaning that bell polishing will happen in the lobby of their hotel sometimes. The reality is they are reducing the foundry use by more than 90%. In spite of this attempt to muddy the waters, I think the difference between a boutique hotel and a bell foundry is quite obvious.

You can help save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a living foundry by submitting an objection to the boutique hotel proposal to Tower Hamlets council. Please take a moment this weekend to write your letter of objection. The more objections we can lodge the better, so please spread the word to your family and friends.



Use your own words and add your own personal reasons for opposing the development. Any letters which simply duplicate the same wording will count only as one objection.


1. Quote the application reference: PA/19/00008/A1

2. Give your full name and postal address. You do not need to be a resident of Tower Hamlets or of the United Kingdom to register a comment but unless you give your postal address your objection will be discounted.

3. Be sure to state clearly that you are OBJECTING to Raycliff Capital’s application.

4. Point out the ‘OPTIMUM VIABLE USE’ for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is as a foundry not a boutique hotel.

5. Emphasise that you want it to continue as a foundry and there is a viable proposal to deliver this.

6. Request the council refuse Raycliff Capital’s application for change of use from foundry to hotel.



You can write an email to


you can post your objection direct on the website by following this link to Planning and entering the application reference PA/19/00008/A1


you can send a letter to

Town Planning, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG



Members of East End Preservation Society deliver their petition of 10,000 signatures to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to Downing St in 2017  (photograph Sarah Ainslie)


“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 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



You may also like to read about

Hope for The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

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

53 Responses leave one →
  1. Hayley Bell permalink
    February 3, 2019

    I hope this campaign succeeds. It certainly deserves to. And I adore the photographs you’ve chosen of the fabulously named Bippy Seigel and his associate.

  2. Robin Call permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Makes me ashamed to be American (again).

  3. Jamie S permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Apart from this being an appalling idea on countless levels, I particularly like in the visualisation of the hotel lobby the cynical use of two seemingly muslim-faith models with headscarves, right in the foreground. Is this some sort of ploy to appeal to decision makers who may be of muslim faith, seeing as Tower Hamlets is heavily populated with them? I can’t imagine the developers have the slightest intention of integrating or supporting the now-local people

  4. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Thanks GA for championing such an important cause.

  5. February 3, 2019

    I agree with Jamie’s comments, a cynical and inappropriate visualisation of the hotel lobby.
    If the decision goes the ‘wrong way’ for the Developers, can this be called in and overturned by Mayor Khan? Hence the depictions….
    I will be writing a letter of objection today, thank you Gentle Author for the relevant links.

  6. David Collard permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Have registered an objection to this obnoxious application. The developers’ taste is beyond question.

  7. February 3, 2019

    I hope with all my heart it will not ne turned into a horrible, tasteless (and as vulgar as the devloppers – and I agree wiht Hayley Bell, the pictures could not be better)) boutique hotel. As I live in Spain and I’m French, I don’t think I can write a letter of opposition. Correct me if I am wrong.

  8. Laura Williamson permalink
    February 3, 2019

    If this wasn’t all so sad, it would almost be amusing that there are actually those who seem to think that polishing the odd bell while people sit nearby sipping their lattes bears the smallest resemblance to the hot, noisy, dirty, proper work of casting a bell (or anything else) in a real foundry setting.

    That is of course if they do believe it and are not just trying to con the rest of us with this sop.

    Thanks GA for keeping us abreast of this.

  9. CFB permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Agree with all said above. I couldn’t help but notice too that the artist responsible for the visualisation of the hotel lobby has neglected to give the ladies in the foreground any legs or feet.

  10. Wendy Lowe permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Thank you again for highlighting this. Putting pen to paper right now. The proposal is simply awful – totally appalling.

  11. EJ Wilkinson permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Objection registered in strongest terms. Daughter visited on school trip many years ago and lots of children and adults will have many happy memories of visiting the Bell Foundry. I don’t see many class trips planned to visit a boutique hotel. I can only hope that Tower Hamlets does the right thing.

  12. February 3, 2019

    Thanks for the update, GA: I wrote this to Tower Hamlets.

    ‘Tower Hamlets Council should oppose this ruination of one of the most important historical buildings in the area, especially as a viable alternative maintaining the original use of the building has been proposed by the Factum Foundation and the United Kingdom Historic Buildings Preservation Trust. In partricular, the developers’ notional ‘reinstating’ of a foundry in their ’boutique hotel’ is an insult to your intelligence. The alternative plan honours the physical condition of the original building and maintains its historical purpose – this proposal for the effective wrecking of a Grade II* listed building must be rejected.’

    Hope it helps!

  13. February 3, 2019

    PS: I too noted the ploy of showing two women with headscarves in the foreground. As with the notional ‘bell-polishing’, I really hope Tower Hamlets Council realises just how cynically the developers are attempting to play them.

  14. robin lacey permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Not only would it continue the ancient craft of bell founding where it has been carried out for hundreds of years, but creatively breathing new life, techniques and materials into the field, and a new generation of artists and crafts people. This would be a world leading project and a great benefit to the locale, London and Britain. OR, just another boutique hotel for the benefit of an elite few? I need to think, but I’ll get back to you on that one! Doh!

  15. February 3, 2019

    I do casting for jewellery . It includes some of the processes used in the casting of the brass bells at the Whitechapel foundry so I really do appreciate how they are made.. People have been casting metals for thousands of years The trashing of human skills and replacing it with machine made junk is steaming ahead unchecked . In one grand sweep Tower Hamlets Council will erradicate yet another time honoured craft and trade. This time round I hope they stop and think a bit more as to what they are doing . Do we really need any more junk ?

  16. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 3, 2019

    I will be writing my objections later today and spreading the word to as many people as possible… let’s hope the campaign succeeds! The alternative plan is so much better in every way that it would be a tragedy if it fails to replace the horrible hotel idea.

    I also had the same thoughts as above re the brilliantly naff photos of the developers (!) and also the cynical use of the Muslim models in the visualisation. Where are the fat cat Americans who would be much more likely to be the customers of such a bad taste hotel??

  17. aubrey permalink
    February 3, 2019

    I am saddened and totally appalled by both the visualisation and the photographs. As such, I have just emailed my objection forthwith!

  18. Gary Arber permalink
    February 3, 2019

    In the days when I used to run my shop in the Roman and this type of problem cropped up, Jonn Biggs who was then a Labour councillor was one of the good guys, can he help?

  19. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    February 3, 2019

    I presume that as a citizen of the United States my opinion would not carry any weight with local government. But I have to remark that the photographs you found of the developers illustrate everything that I find distasteful about the project… and that isn’t even addressing the myopic, insulting proposal that they submitted to Tower Hamlets. If London is anything like New York City or Boston she already has a surfeit of boutique hotels. Correct me if I am wrong, but does she have even half a dozen bell foundries…? Particularly any others with this distinguished history?

  20. the gentle author permalink*
    February 3, 2019

    You can still submit an objection, Jennifer. Please do so!

  21. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Robin Call;

    You speak for ME, TOO.

  22. the gentle author permalink*
    February 3, 2019

    Yes, you can submit an objection from anywhere in the world.

  23. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Dear G.A.,

    I find that because I don’t have a UK post-code that I can’t post to Tower Hamlets’ website (darn — I’d paste this on shop windows and lamp posts if I lived there)! But the letter is written and mailed; here’s hoping it helps!

  24. the gentle author permalink*
    February 3, 2019

    Thankyou, Jennifer!

  25. Bill Muirhead permalink
    February 3, 2019

    An important and historic part of London’s history that can and must be preserved.

  26. Julia harrison permalink
    February 3, 2019

    I am objecting and encouraging others to do the same. Thank you for your very well written piece with its clear instructions onhow to make an objection.

  27. Rob Cassels permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Thanks so much for this campaign. I have written to object

  28. Chris Ashby permalink
    February 3, 2019

    Thanks Gentle Author for helping us to object to this monstrous plan – done!
    All the best,
    Chris and Pat.

  29. Joshua Christian permalink
    February 3, 2019

    This foundry has been casting bells for centuries and is part of the heart and soul of Whitechapel as a whole. As such, it should be defended to the hilt in order to stop it being turned into another swanky upmarket hotel that most people want or need. This foundry should be protected at all costs.

  30. Joshua Christian permalink
    February 3, 2019

    What I meant to say was that most people in the area don’t want or need another non-descript swanky upmarket hotel.

  31. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    February 4, 2019

    Please no!!! Not another hotel, leave the British history alone. If those damn Americans want to build another hotel do it in their own country. Leave the UK alone.

  32. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    February 4, 2019

    As my previous comment, please note I am not British but I do have British ancestors. My maternal forefathers were from Yorkshire. I hate seeing British history been destroyed by all the rich foreigners.

  33. Jonathan Madden permalink
    February 4, 2019

    I have written to Tower Hamlets Council in the strongest possible terms and encouraged many others to do the same, this is outrageous and a travesty. I have also written to Private Eye and asked them to help with the cause and cover the story. I know there’s so many bad news stories around right now but we shouldn’t let this become another one. I urge everyone to do the right thing and show their disdain for this outrageous proposal.

  34. February 4, 2019

    I have emailed my objection to Tower Hamlets Council today . I dont see a time limit as to when objections should be submitted .I hope it is not too late

  35. February 4, 2019

    Just a note: I followed the link to the Planning website to leave my comment there, but when I entered my US postcode, I received an error message: “Please enter a valid UK postcode.”

    Internationals might want to follow the Gentle Author’s other suggested routes to protest.

    Thank you, GA, for this. By the way, the word is definitely traveling–I learned of the project via a post on an academic listserve for Victorian-history scholars.

  36. Georgina Briody permalink
    February 4, 2019

    Just to let you know I have today written to Tower Hamlets Planning Department registering my objection to yet another historical building under threat by developers who have no real knowledge or love of the area. We can but try and…..I want to thank the GA for keeping us in touch with the current situation.

  37. jennifer galton-fenzi permalink
    February 4, 2019

    Objection sent. The idea of a bell-themed boutique hotel is absolutely gross. God speed the campaign against this travesty.

  38. Charlie Ringrose permalink
    February 5, 2019

    Thank you for making this so straightforward. I live abroad and had no idea that I might be able to have any say in such a matter. I have registered my objection and I’m sure I’m just a speck of sand on this particular beach. Keep doing what you do, Gentle Author, we’re all the better for it.

  39. daphne steele permalink
    February 5, 2019

    There can’t be anything to add that hasn’t already been said. we have sent in objections and encouraged many contacts to do so, but unfortunately all too many people said that didn’t think the council would take any notice as history and tradition meant little to them.
    Any physical protest being made – if so could you keep updating the news.

  40. Anthony G Britton permalink
    February 6, 2019

    This foundry has been casting bells for centuries and is part of the heart and soul of Whitechapel as a whole. As such, it should be defended to the hilt in order to stop it being turned into another swanky upmarket hotel that most people want or need. This foundry should be protected at all costs.

  41. Mary Lou permalink
    February 6, 2019

    Save the bell foundry as a foundry.
    No more hotels do not destroy history for
    a quick money making sceme.

  42. Sharon O’Connor permalink
    February 6, 2019

    The Whitechapel Foundry is very important
    To keep as a foundry as it has been for hundreds of years

  43. Douglas How permalink
    February 7, 2019

    I have just written to Tower Hamlets council objecting to this application. It seems very sad that a cynical commercial ploy to take advantage of the heritage of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is provides. London does and can provide the opportunities for our heritage to live side by side with the pressures of the modern world. This application does not inspire this co habitation.

  44. February 7, 2019

    I’ve just written to Tower Hamlets Council to object as well. I do hope they are flooded with objections and this wonderful building is saved from the developers’ dead hands. Thanks for your fantastic work and helpful guidelines.

  45. Sue Mayer permalink
    February 7, 2019

    I have submitted my objection. Thanks for alerting us and giving us all the information needed to object.

    Why do we still want to destroy our historical buildings! I hope the council see sense this time.

  46. February 7, 2019

    Allow me to happily draw readers’ attention to a wonderful bit of history about the little fishing village where I live in Newfoundland, Canada, and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. In Petty Harbour our Anglican Church (one side of the Harbour used to be Protestant, and the other Catholic!) has a bell that was cast by Whitechapel, and is one of 7 known in our province. You can read about it here:

  47. Christopher Clarke permalink
    February 8, 2019

    I have today written a letter to Tower Hamlets Council to object. As a musical instrument maker whose son worked for a bell-foundry near Orléans until it effectively closed, I have the deepest empathy with your struggle to preserve both material and immaterial heritage of the first order. Bravo for the fight you are putting up! Nil Illegitimus Carborundum!

  48. Sue masters permalink
    February 14, 2019

    Save the bell foundry no way should it be a hotel , so wrong !

  49. Margy Mayell permalink
    February 14, 2019

    Keep as bell foundry

  50. Martin Corrick permalink
    February 14, 2019

    Thank you for raising public interest in this fabulous treasure. It certainly deserves everyone’s support. The fact that this building has created bells that are still tolling their beautiful song across London – and much wider than that, perhaps – is a delightful notion, expressing much about English history and culture.

    Please preserve this building!

  51. Rachel Blaylock permalink
    February 18, 2019

    I have written my strong letter of objection and shared with family and friends. There is a sad inevitability about these things, but I have a glimmer of hope with the Historic Buildings trust and the Factum Foundation getting on board. That artist’s impression above doesn’t even merit comment. Ugh.

  52. ClareEdwards permalink
    February 25, 2019

    Could you please tell us how the campaign to save the foundry is going? I sent a few $s to your great cause!

  53. Jeanne permalink
    June 10, 2019

    I’ve had letter from Tower Hamlets planning as there are revisions to the proposal. The deadline for comments is 17/06/2019. I note there are now workshops. It would be helpful if the campaign to save the foundry could post an update to help us make comments.

    This correspondence from Historic England is on the planning site

    “Historic England has been involved in pre-application negotiations on proposals for this site since 2016, and our advice has helped shaped the current proposals. In summary, whilst the demise of the site as a single-use working foundry for large bells is regrettable, we believe that the proposals represent a conservation led approach that safeguards the architectural significance of the listed buildings on site while providing them with new uses and a long term sustainable future. The end of the long bell-making tradition at the site will inevitably result in some loss of historical significance. In our view, however, that loss will be mitigated through the use of part of the site as a working foundry for small bells and artworks, and through the re-use of the historic carpentry workshops.”

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