The resurrection of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a cultural heritage site in the heart of London, in the borough of Tower Hamlets, of worldwide importance. This renowned foundry has been based in Whitechapel since the reign of Elizabeth I; producing such bells as Big Ben, the Liberty Bell, Bow Bells and the Bells of St Clements. Until very recently, it was Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, a working community and a repository of invaluable craft skills.
In June 2017, the historic Whitechapel Foundry was acquired and the use of these Grade 2* buildings for the making of bells ceased. Despite its unique and profound importance, campaigns in the national press, and enormous emotional public outcry, the WBF was sold and closed.
Re-Form Heritage (formerly United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust or UKHBPT), an independent charity under the founding patronage of The Prince of Wales, teamed up with Factum Foundation, a UK and Spanish registered not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the documentation and preservation of cultural heritage through the application of new technologies together with craft skills. Through this partnership, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry could again have become a viable foundry that specialised in bells, but also produce special edition artworks in bronze and other materials.
The new owner, Raycliff Whitechapel LLP, submitted a planning application seeking to secure a Change of Use and development of the site as a 100-bed hotel, private members club, restaurant, bar, café and shop, with desk-sharing workspaces. The founding activity on site in the Raycliff Whitechapel proposal was reduced by nearly 90%, to a small shop and studio for the casting of hand bells in a corner of the restaurant and cafe.
The below document called "Supplement to the June 2018 document" focusses on the Raycliff Whitechapel LLP Planning Submission. It accompanies the ‘Saved by the Bell! The Resurrection of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry’ proposal, which contains detailed descriptions of how a 21st-century bell foundry would operate, statements of support by artists, architectural historians and Nigel Taylor, the former Tower Bell Manager at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
The Public Inquiry, which started on 6 October 2020 to decide the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry ended on 28 October 2020, with Paul Griffith, the Inspector, expecting to put his completed report to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government in early December. Click here to access our closing statement, on behalf of Ruppert Warren QC and Matthew Dale-Harris.
On 13 May 2021, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, granted consent to permit development of a hotel on the site of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Over the 4 year-long campaign to preserve and revitalise Britain’s oldest single-purpose industrial building, we are grateful to the 27,000 people signed the petition, our supporters at the Mosque and the readers of the Spitalfield’s Life blog.
Read Adam Lowe's full public statement
In recent news and as announced on Spitalfields Life on October 5th 2022, Raycliff Whitechapel LLP, who bought the purpose-built bell foundry to turn it into a boutique hotel are now selling the building in Whitechapel as a gallery space with luxury catering. It is a great tragedy to see traditional, living craftsmanship and a Grade II listed building being destroyed at the behest of a commercial property sale. Since the Secretary of State’s decision, Factum Foundation and Re-Form have evidenced that this living craft has a function in the modern era by creating the London Bell Foundry and successfully making bells with world-renowned contemporary artists. This confirms the irrational and nonsensical nature of this sale.
The London Bell Foundry seeks to acquire the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to provide a permanent home for bell casting in the UK once again. It will be a showcase of modern technology whilst retaining traditional skills. It will provide high-skilled jobs and training for craftsmen in Whitechapel. Being a working foundry, it will be open to public tours and for educational school visits.
- Charles Saumarez Smith's blog (25/11/2022)
- The Art Newspaper (1/11/2022)
- Apollo Magazine (14/10/2022)
- The Art Newspaper (21/07/2022)
- Apollo Magazine (14/05/2021)
- Evening Standard (14/05/2021)
- The Art Newspaper (14/05/2021)
- The Guardian (11/05/2021) and podcast version The Guardian (7/06/2021)
- The Art Newspaper (29/03/2021)
- The Guardian (4/10/2020)
- Daily Mail (2/10/2020)
- The Critic (October 2020)
- Soho Radio (starts at 19:30) (30/09/2020)
- The Diapason (September 2020)
- Financial Times (25/12/19)
- BBC's Front Row (starts at 10:37) (9/12/19)
- Daily Mail (05/12/19)
- Evening Standard (04/12/2019)
- Evening Standard (13/11/2019)
- Apollo Magazine (19/09/2019)
- The Guardian (31/08/2019)
- BBC Radio (starts at 01:18:00) - 16/08/19
- Daily Mail - 05/08/19
- East London Advertiser - 11/02/19
- Charles Saumarez Smith's blog
- Spitalfields Life interview of Nigel Taylor - 10/02/2019
- Financial Times - 03/08/18
- The Guardian - 21/07/18
- Apollo Magazine - 05/01/17
- The Economist - 24/12/2016
- The Guardian - 02/12/16