Whitechapel Bell Foundry (2)

I am re-posting the latest post on Spitalfields Life not just because it describes and shows pictures of yesterday’s rally, but because it provides such an admirably clear account of the legalities of the hearing next Thursday: that if the Council is to allow re-use, the current owners must be able to demonstrate that its previous use is not viable (and, indeed, to advertise its availability which, of course, they haven’t). They obviously can’t do this, because there is an alternative, economically viable plan from the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust to re-establish its previous use, which has been available since soon after the Foundry’s sale and was known to Historic England before they gave their ill-gotten advice. So, if it follows its normal legal procedures, Tower Hamlets should simply turn the application down.




In the intervals of going to Taipei, I can’t help but notice that the full blast of autumn has arrived, so that even Stepney Green looks like Western Massachusetts at the height of the fall:-

And the garden, too, is golden:-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (1)

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.


The Charterhouse

I went to the Charterhouse, an unexpectedly peaceful and surprisingly large-scale, semi-monastic foundation sandwiched between Smithfield Market and the Barbican, dating in its origins to a Carthusian monastery founded in 1371, dissolved in 1537 when the Prior was hung, drawn and quartered, and used to store Henry VIII’s hunting apparel until it was taken over by the North family who built the Great Hall. In 1611, it was converted by Sir Thomas Sutton into an almshouse and school. The school moved out to Godalming in 1872, leaving the almshouses to be occupied by a community of brothers, who can enjoy a remarkable set of medieval buildings, repaired after the war by Seely and Paget:-


Ways of Drawing

One of the benefits of travelling has been the opportunity to read and digest Ways of Drawing, the Royal Drawing School’s recently published bible, containing the thoughts and ideas of its teaching staff and ex-students, including a brilliant description of what it feels like to be an artist’s model by Isley Lynn (but no pictures of what she looks like), a description of the pleasures and experience of drawing in the countryside by Daniel Chatto and of drawing items of natural history close-up by Clara Drummond. Cumulatively, the essays convey the intensity of the experience of drawing and of how it gets one to think as well as look. They’ve printed 10,000 copies, which shows how popular it is expected to be.