Whitechapel Bell Foundry (6)

I am going to answer my own question as to why it is that Historic England has supported the plans to redevelop the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a boutique hotel:-

1. They were consulted at an early stage by Raycliff. I guess that the advice they gave was followed. Raycliff have employed good and experienced local architects. So, the fact that Raycliff followed the correct procedures will have encouraged Historic England to support Raycliff’s application.

2. Historic England were not duty bound to examine, let alone support, the alternative proposal put forward by United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust. This is in spite of Historic England having themselves supported the previous project run by UKHBPT at Middleport Pottery which won a Europa Nostra award for heritage.

3. The Hughes family who previously ran the Bell Foundry for several generations believe that it is uneconomic to run a Bell Foundry in Whitechapel. If they couldn’t, how will anyone else ? But Factum Foundation have a workable and sustainable business plan for making bells alongside running a Foundry for artists. So, the idea that the Foundry is uneconomic in its current form is not proven.

4. Some people in the heritage community, possibly including Historic England, think that, once the equipment of the Bell Foundry was sold, its previous life had essentially ended. But I have been to the Bell Foundry since it closed. It retains all of its character and atmosphere. Nothing has changed. Once it became a Bell Foundry again, it would spring back to life. But not if it is a cafeteria.

5. At heart, this is an argument between the heritage as viewed through its built fabric and what is now known as ‘the intangible heritage’ – the heritage as considered more broadly, to include issues of memory, the survival of what are essentially medieval forms of craft practice, transmitted through generations. Historic England may have felt that, as a legal entity, it exists only to preserve the former. And since the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was not designed by William Chambers or Robert Adam, its existence can be sacrificed.

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