Duncan Wilson, the Chief executive of Historic England, has written a carefully considered response to the Times to the letter which Dan Cruickshank and I wrote on Friday.
For those who don’t have access to the Times, I am re-publishing it here:-
Sir, The proposals for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (letter, Jul 12) have been misrepresented by those arguing for the alternative scheme. The plans of the new owners, Raycliff, are closer to the Whitechapel legacy of bell-making. The Hughes family, who ran the foundry from 1904 until it closed (as it was uneconomic to continue) has supported the Westley Group to continue production of small bells in the Old Foundry, and larger bells elsewhere. These plans, being considered by Tower Hamlets, are creative, sensitive, and respectful of the historic buildings, as well as allowing public access. They have the ingredients of a successful heritage regeneration scheme and secure the future of the listed buildings, which is why Historic England supports them.
Duncan Wilson Chief executive, Historic England
He is, of course, absolutely correct that Raycliff, a New York venture capital company, have secured support from the Hughes, the former owners of the Foundry, for their plans. The Hughes have taken the view that it was impossible to operate a bell foundry successfully on the site, which is why they sold it. The benefit of the alternative plans, which have been drawn up by United Kingdom Historic Preservation Trust and Factum Foundation, is that they keep the historic buildings as a working foundry, do not involve the demolition of the 1970s extension, and by making it into an art foundry allows the existing operation to be re-established. This is surely preferable to it becoming a kitsch hotel.