We went to the local rally in support of the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which was held, first, in the hall of the East London Mosque, and, then, outside the Foundry itself. Three of the local councillors, who provide much the best hope of persuading the planning committee not to give permission for change-of-use, spoke eloquently about the importance of the Bell Foundry as a local resource, a survival of a deeply embedded sense of local traditions against the tide of international property speculation. They succeeded in persuading the committee to turn down an application last week, contrary to the officer’s advice.
I wanted to make the point that the Bell Foundry is not just of local, but of national importance. In the 1980s, I used to accompany students from the V&A and Royal College of Art on study trips to sites of industrial significance, including the Ironbridge Museum and Styal Mill in Lancashire. But none of them were as redolent or powerfully evocative of old systems of manufacture and traditional labour practices as the Bell Foundry, which had an extraordinary sense of nearly medieval continuity.
The officers have recommended approval of the plans to turn the Foundry into a hotel. I hope that, on Thursday, the councillors will be able to persuade the planning committee to turn the plans down.