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Spitalfields Trust bids for ‘Asset’ listing as bell tolls for Whitechapel Foundry

PUBLISHED: 14:48 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:48 16 March 2017

Queen visits Whitechapel bell foundry in 2009 [photos: Adrian Dennis/PA]

Queen visits Whitechapel bell foundry in 2009 [photos: Adrian Dennis/PA]

PA Wire/PA Photos

An application for London’s historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be listed as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ has been made by conservationists.

Don't let me disturb you... Queen watches foundry worker operatimng his latheDon't let me disturb you... Queen watches foundry worker operatimng his lathe

The Spitalfields Trust wants the 450-year-old foundry that closes in May—revealed in the East London Advertiser in December—to be preserved as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company.

The foundry was established in 1570 and has been on its Whitechapel Road site since 1740.

The Queen visited the foundry in 2009 to see the bell-making process at first hand and meet the workers.

Among the famous bells cast at Whitechapel are Big Ben made in 1858 for the rebuilding of Parliament and the bells at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Foundry workers at Whitechapel casting a bellFoundry workers at Whitechapel casting a bell

It also cast America’s Liberty Bell in Philadelphia during Colonial days which was rung to summon the city’s residents to hear the Declaration of Independence in 1776 which became a symbol for abolishing slavery a century later.

The trust is urging supporters to send letters and emails to Tower Hamlets Council to support the application for ‘Asset’ listing.

The bell foundry is “an integral part of the historical identity of Whitechapel”, the trust points out. It is also a tourist attraction and an employer that maintains skills “which could easily be lost”.

The company’s owner, Alan Hughes, was hoping to find a buyer before he retires in May, but this has come to nothing.

“We have made this decision to sell up with a heavy heart,” Alan said. “But it is in response to changing realities of a business of this kind.”

His grandfather bought the business in 1904. It had changed hands many times in its history, but has always been a family concern.

The Grade II-listed building in the Whitechapel Road, in fact, has already been sold. It was becoming too expensive to maintain, having cost £20,000 to repair its leaking ancient roof tiling and brickwork.

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