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'Save Whitechapel bell foundry' campaign gets backing from the mosque next door

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:36 01 July 2019

The Queen arriving at Whitechapel bell foundry in 2009. Picture: Elsa Kvist

The Queen arriving at Whitechapel bell foundry in 2009. Picture: Elsa Kvist

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Preservationists hoping to stop the historic Whitechapel bell foundry being turned into a themed hotel have got backing from the East London Mosque.

The Queen speaking to Whitechapel Bell Foundry owner Alan Hughes during her 2009 visit. Picture: Adrian Dennis/PA WireThe Queen speaking to Whitechapel Bell Foundry owner Alan Hughes during her 2009 visit. Picture: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire

Developers want to build a hotel on the foundry site in Whitechapel Road in the extension next to the original Grade II-listed building.

But the Historic Building Preservation Trust wants to return the site to a working bell foundry again—and has the cash to do it.

A planning application has been submitted to Tower Hamlets Council for a 'boutique hotel' which would retain some "bell foundry activity" in the lobby.

Now the Muslim centre next to the foundry has objected in a letter to the planning authority, which is discussing the application on July 30.

How developers see the future of Whitechapel bell foundry. Picture: Raycliff CapitalHow developers see the future of Whitechapel bell foundry. Picture: Raycliff Capital

"It would be a shocking loss if this historic institution was sacrificed to make a hotel," the mosque's finance director Dilwar Khan said. "The Whitechapel foundry can be saved as a working foundry."

The mosque is supporting the idea that the site can be used for training young people and giving public access to "this landmark which is a treasure of national and world renown".

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The foundry, established in 1570, was Britain's oldest factory, but went out of business in 2017 due to falling demand and rising costs as well as urgently-needed restoration put at £8m.

It had been in Alan Hughes' family for four generations since 1904 and was contracted to cast bells for both the Royal Jubilee and the London Olympics in 2012.

The Queen visited the foundry in 2009 with the Duke of Edinburgh to see the traditional craft of bell casting, which in the past famously included Big Ben, America's Liberty Bell and the Bow Bells.

But the planning application does not propose a hotel on the original historic foundry itself, the authority points out, only in the rear of the unlisted 1980s' extension.

The Preservation Trust, however, wants the whole site continued as a foundry with artist workshops, in a partnership with the Factum Foundation.

The two organisations together have the resources to buy the buildings from the developer at market value and reopen them as a working foundry, re-equipped with up-to-date machinery to produce bells and for casting artwork.

They have a business plan and funding to ensure the East End retains "one of the finest craft facilities in the world".

Members of the East End Preservation Society led by TV historian Dan Cruikshank, who lives within walking distance of the foundry, delivered a petition with 10,000 signatures to Downing Street in 2017 to save the ancient site.

The building dates back to 1738, but Alan and Kathryn Hughes decided to sell up in 2017 after years of struggling against economic pressures and the high cost of maintaining the listed structure that needed extensive upgrading beyond their means.

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