Charity hopes to buy back historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry from developers

Staff from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and members of the public ringing bells on the day the Londo

Staff from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and members of the public ringing bells on the day the London Olympic Games were inagurated. Picture: Isabel Infantes - Credit: Archant

A charity is seeking to re-open the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry after it was closed down and bought by developers last year.

The Bell Foundry has been in the Grade II listed building in Whitechapel Road since 1740, but premises were sold in 2016 after rising costs and declining demand made it unviable to stay.

The building was bought by Raycliff in 2017, and in June this year they held a public consultation on proposals for the site. They included a building behind the site housing a hotel, along with office and retail spaces.

But The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT) fear the proposals will strip the building of its heritage, and together with not-for-profit conservation group, the Factum Foundation, they’ve set out a different vision for the building, which would see the foundry business continue.

Their report, Saved by the Bell, proposes the Factum-UKHBPT partnership acquires the building, re-equips the foundry and restarts bell-making within a year, once emergency repairs to the roof have been carried out.

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The partnership would fund the takeover with sponsorship, and then reinstate employees and develop a training sheme for future bell-makers.

The report proposes using modern bell-casting techniques to keep the business viable, including 3D recording, 3D printing and state-of-the-art scanning techniques.

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Nigel Taylor, who was the tower bell production manager at the foundry for 40 years, said: “We will need to totally re-equip the premises, but this presents the opportunity to obtain modern equipment and to employ state-of-the-art moulding and casting techniques.

“This approach to the revitalisation of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry will keep the production of bells on this site for the foreseeable future.”

According to Raycliff, their scheme has been designed to maximise the amount of space open to the public, while keeping the significant historic features intact.

Changes will have “full regard” to the importance of the site in the history of bell founding, with the possiblity of onsite bell-making workshops. The proposals have been developed with Historic England, Tower Hamlets Council and the Hughes family, who managed the site for more than 100 years.

A spokesman from Raycliff said: “We’ve put together a very experienced heritage-led design team to deliver a new future for the foundry that will include bell founding on the old site.”

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