I went to the public consultation for the proposed redevelopment of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
The site remains more intact than I had expected with the engineering workshop which was added at the back between 1979 and 1981 still redolent of its former industrial use:-
I was also allowed to look next door into the older sand foundry and moulding shop which, again, is still very atmospheric, with old shelves, the remains of working apparatus, and miscellaneous fixtures and fittings. It would not be difficult to refit these spaces as they were, as examples of working practice close to the heart of London:-
So, the question is: what can be done to preserve as much of the historic environment intact and to keep, if possible, the site as a working foundry, not necessarily just making church and hand bells, rather than turning it into a small, post-industrial, heritage attraction showing the history of bell-making alongside a much larger boutique hotel ?
My own view, independent of the ownership of the site, is that Tower Hamlets should make it a condition of any redevelopment that there should be a working foundry onsite in the existing working space at the back; and that it would be a great loss if the historic working areas were simply turned into a café/bar, as currently proposed.
The cards are, of course, in the hands of Bippy Siegal, the current owner of the site, who clearly has a very active commitment to the regeneration of sites in the east end, has employed good local architects to advise him (31/44 who are based in Whitechapel and Amsterdam), bought some of the surviving historic bells at auction, and has the Hughes, the previous owners, on his side.
I hope that he might consider, or be encouraged by the heritage authorities, including Historic England, to consider retaining a larger element of active manufacture and craft skills onsite, using some of the people who used to be employed by the foundry, as part of the development of his scheme.
It could, as has been proposed, be done in conjunction with Factum Foundation, who have expressed an interest in using the site as a working foundry, and have the contacts and experience to do so.