Public Inquiry on the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry
6 – 28 October 2020
Online event through Microsoft Teams
Final decision: 13 May 2021
On 6 October 2020 a planning inquiry commenced regarding the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, 32-34 Whitechapel Road, 2 Fieldgate Street and land to the rear (planning application reference numbers PA/19/00008 and PA/19/00009). All the documentation relating to the inquiry on the Tower Hamlet Council’s website was available here.
On 14 May 2021, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, granted consent permitting development of a hotel on the site of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
It is with great sadness that we announce the outcome of the Planning Inquiry around the Church Bell Foundry in Whitechapel. Our sadness is really focused on the values that lie behind the decision. Consent has been granted to turn London´s oldest company, founded in 1570 and working until 2017, into a hotel, several restaurants, bars and a private members club.
We fought to demonstrate that a bell foundry is viable when technology and craft skills work in tandem with artists and innovative thinkers to shape a city that cares about more the money.
Rethinking the metrics of value can be dismissed as naïve. Curiosity, inventiveness and renegotiating the relationship between art, science, technology and sharing things that facilitate an enjoyment of human communication should be valued more than an increasingly virtual notion of financial value.
Over four years of fighting, we have built a movement of like-minded people. With the help of Grayson Perry and other artists, we are now going to demonstrate how new markets for bells will celebrate the vital role they play within the public imagination. Grayson’s Post-Covid Bell is in production and will be the evidence of what can be achieved. It will also sound a death knell for one of the greatest examples of living heritage, that preserved the skills of bell making in Whitechapel for almost 500 years.
Factum Foundation would like to thank everyone who has done so much to support the revitalisation of the foundry. These include local people, the mosque, craftsmen, artists, former employees of the bell foundry and many others for whom the sound of bells matter.
We believe the Secretary of State made the wrong decision. Our task is now to demonstrate the viability of our approach. The future of bells lies in the synaesthetic nature of digital technologies, the artistic desire to merge shape, sound and materiality and a growing awareness that the quality and sustainability of life is in our hands.
We will post regular updates about Grayson Perry’s Post-Covid Bell and we will announce new projects that will both revitalise bell making and preserve traditional bell-making skills.
We welcome your continued support as much as we have done over the last years.
The future of the London Bell Foundry starts now.
Founder of Factum Foundation