I have been involved in a discussion on twitter as to whether or not Historic England is justified in supporting the transformation of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel. The argument is that the use of buildings has, and does, change over time. Why not just accept that the bell foundry was past its sell-by date and that it’s better now to adapt it for a smart new swimming pool and cappuccinos ?
The problem is that the Bell Foundry was a remarkable and wonderful survival. It was preserved in the 1970s when the GLC recognised its significance to historic archaeology. If it was important in the 1970s, how much more remarkable is it – or was it – that it had survived until 2017 in full working order, still functioning as a bell foundry with all its working practices and equipment. If it’s not the mandate of Historic England to protect it, why not ? They fought to protect Middleport Pottery. They should be fighting to protect the Bell Foundry, too.