We are gathering our forces for the forthcoming public hearing about the fate of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. I thought I knew most of what there is to know about its history, but have been impressed by the fact that Thomas Marks, the editor of Apollo, has spotted that John Summerson, the greatest historian of eighteenth-century London, described the group of buildings occupied by the Bell Foundry as ‘the most remarkable group of its kind in London’. This is not insignificant. He described the buildings thus in 1945. He was a modernist, a member of the MARS Group. Historic England has consistently argued that the buildings themselves are of no architectural interest or significance, only the contents, and refused to upgrade them to Grade 1. Why the disparity ? It must be that Summerson recognised and understood the importance of eighteenth-century industrial architecture, as did Ian Nairn, in a way that Historic England has not.
The hearing is on October 6th. Let’s hope the buildings can be properly preserved as working industrial architecture, not an ersatz hotel.