I nipped down to the Whitechapel Idea Store to acquire a copy of the pamphlet produced by the Survey of London, just in time to document its long and fascinating history before it is turned into a kitsch hotel.
Its origins go back to the 1570s when Robert Doddes started making church bells in a foundry in what later became Church Alley and there was an earlier foundry in Aldgate dating back to 1363. So, it’s old. They moved into their current building in the 1740s when Thomas Lester (sometimes spelled Leicester) moved the foundry to a site formerly occupied by The Old Artichoke Alehouse. So, the building is an example of eighteenth-century industrial architecture, with a house at the front where Lester lived and had an office and another house at the side for the foreman.
The problem is that much of the importance of the site lies in it being used for manufacture – the sense of retaining old ways of working, not the snort of the cappuccino machine.
The best way of doing this is for Tower Hamlets to come out in favour of the proposal put forward by United Kingdom Building Preservation Trust and Factum Foundation, which would involve re-employing Nigel Taylor, the previous foreman, to run it.