Whitechapel Bell Foundry (9)

Although Historic England does not now publish minutes of its meetings online, or, at least, has not done so since October 2016, they have kindly provided a summary (see below) of the reasons why their staff and London Advisory Committee support the current scheme to demolish the rear section as being of ‘no architectural or historic interest’ and only keep a small token shrine to bell-making, while turning most of the rest of the historic ground floor into a café/bar (which will indeed give public access to those who want to buy a drink).

I can see that this assessment makes good sense if you take the view of a Courtauld-trained architectural historian doing a desk-based analysis. But the rear section was added in the early 1980s – I believe funded by the GLC – by James Strike in order to maintain the viability of the Foundry as a working operation of great, indeed unique, historic value and it is still very important to the current sense of an overall working environment which, to this day, survives remarkably intact, easily capable of restoration if it were to be reinstated as a working Foundry, as proposed by UKHBPT, a charity with the best possible experience of doing just this.

It does make me wonder whether the Committee was able to arrange to visit the Foundry (I know it wasn’t straightforward) because its quality and atmosphere – a uniquely well-preserved historic working environment – depended on seeing it, not just reading the relevant Survey of London entry.

Perhaps the Advisory Committe might be encouraged to review its decision in order to ensure that they still feel that the Raycliff scheme to turn it into a boutique hotel is genuinely better architecturally, than the UKHBPT rival scheme, which preserves the Foundry intact as a foundry.

Not least, it is surely in their interest to do so if the scheme is now going to be reviewed by the Secretary of State, who will, I hope, want their rationale to be spelled out in more detail.



4 thoughts on “Whitechapel Bell Foundry (9)

  1. Kate Woodhead says:

    I do hope you are successful in this fight to maintain the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – they have a good advocate in you.

  2. Well done, Charles. It’s been a valiant and determined fight, but you’ve won, I think. CONGRATULATIONS.

    Historic England ought to be ashamed, and consider their position.

    • Dear Mark, I’ve far from won ! All I’ve discovered is a set of issues which are potentially embarrassing for Historic England in that public money was invested in the early 1980s to save the Bell Foundry, which almost certainly will have had conditions attached, possibly prohibiting its sale and demolition by an American speculator. Let’s see. Charles

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