I hope sincerely that it may be possible to contest the decision on the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. But, meanwhile, it seems that there are two things which have gone very wrong in the advice that has been given.
1. I found out by accident that the issue has never been discussed by the Commissioners of Historic England. They were never told that there was an alternative scheme prepared by a very experienced charity which has previously worked on an equivalent project in Stoke-on-Trent. They were just informed that the Foundry had closed and so remain apparently oblivious of the issues which the case has raised and the amount of ill feeling that it has engendered locally (and internationally). Since the case has been running for two years, this strikes me as negligent.
2. At the heart of Historic England’s advice in favour of turning the Foundry into a hotel is a view that, so long as the ground plan and built fabric of the Foundry is retained, it does not matter, and is not relevant, if the use of the spaces changes from a working Foundry to a café/restaurant. But their mandate is surely not just purely about architecture, but about history as well. They are called HISTORIC England. And the Foundry was unique in the way that it preserved a sense of history, of labouring practices, of London as a working capital, not just a pleasure dome. I feel strongly that the Commissioners should discuss and take a view on this, rather than just be complacently subservient to the advice of their officers.
Perhaps this could be a topic of judicial review ?
2 thoughts on “Whitechapel Bell Foundry (3)”
I”m not a historic buildings expert, but I believe there are four areas of significance that Historic England are supposed to consider: evidential (ie what’s physically there), aesthetic, historic (ie interesting or important associations) and communal. The communal one can be a bit varied in interpretation but certainly means the building’s importance to a wide community such as the nation and can sometimes be taken to mean its meaning to local communities. It sounds like HE have failed to consider the historic and communal categories of significance and behaved like formalist connoisseurs.
Dear Maurice, Thank you. It does feel as if they have taken a very narrow and legalistic view of their responsibilities. Charles