"The Foundry at Whitechapel is world-famous for casting bells since the reign of Elizabeth I. It is the UK's oldest continuous manufacturing business and one of our finest cultural and heritage assets. The Trust’s proposal to retain it as a working foundry, in a revitalised way suitable for the 21stC, will retain and create important creative skills vital to the future of the UK economy. It is a proposal I fully support.
Apart from the cultural and heritage loss to the nation should this site be redeveloped as the current private owner intends, his proposal would do little for the residents of Whitechapel. Instead, as the Trust proposes, we need to retain a business that keeps and creates valuable skilled manufacturing jobs. It will also be an exciting new visitor destination for London.
Bells, including some of the world’s most famous bells, have been made on this site since 1571. London should never countenance the loss of such an iconic national and international business."
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor
"I visited the Whitechapel Bell Foundy not long before it closed and was astonished by what a remarkable survival it was of proto-industrial workshop production, turning out church bells from the fourteenth century onwards and sending them from Whitechapel all over the world. I sincerely hope that it can be re-established as a working foundry under the auspices of Factum Foundations, keeping alive the traditions of bronze casting in a new working environment."
Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Arts
"I broke the story of the closure of the Bell Foundry last year and, as the voice of the community in Spitalfields, I recognise the immense support there is among the people of the East End to keep the bell foundry alive as a living resource for the future. Britain’s oldest manufacturing business, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, sits today within the most deprived part of Tower Hamlets which is itself one of the most deprived boroughs in London, yet I believe it can serve a crucial role in the regeneration of Whitechapel by offering employment, apprenticeships, and genuinely affordable working and living spaces for local people. The closure of the foundry in 2017 permits the opportunity of reconfiguration and a revitalised future, by combining the production of small bells and art casting, to create a commercial viable business which can offer a sustainable future to this unique complex of listed buildings. The foundry is integral to the identity of Whitechapel with a line of forty-two master bell founders stretching back to Robert Chamberlain in 1420 and a history spanning 27 English monarchs. Operating at its current site from the seventeen-forties, the foundry cast the Liberty Bell in 1752, a touchstone for anti-slavery campaigners and a symbol of the Civil Rights movement today. More recently, the memorial bell for the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York which strikes every day, was cast in Whitechapel. Big Ben, the most famous bell in the world, which tolls the hour at the Palace of Westminster was cast at Whitechapel in 1858. Whitechapel’s Bow Bells of St Mary Le Bow in Cheapside were broadcast by the BBC to occupied Europe as a symbol of hope during WWII. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is an asset of local, national and international significance that is too valuable to be sacrificed."
Spitalfields Life - The Gentle Author
"It’s very sad news that the yet another piece manufacturing heritage is set to hand over its value for short term gains. It’s a colossal waste of value and if there is an opportunity that could see this asset purposed towards the UK re-connecting with its manufacturing heritage, then all should be done to take it. UCL has taken its first steps in establishing a presence in the east end of London with its new facility on the Olympic Park at Here East. It opened in January this year and it’s a collaborative venture with the Faculties of Engineering, Computer Science and The Bartlett all sharing Facilities and most importantly, space. A key driver here is around tying design through to manufacturing. Our new facilities support the established and traditional technologies with the disruptive tech that is coming into play in supporting research and teaching. Alongside a new apprenticeship scheme to grow the talent needed to operate in this sphere. The new masters courses and the facility itself comes about as a response from the UK Government and Industry to bring the next generation of skilled people who can think across the boundaries of design and manufacturing and to connect with the industries in the east end in order that our students are responding to real world challenges in industry. The Whitechapel foundry would be a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate to our students the disciplines and processes that they need knowledge of in order for design to leverage the affordances of process. It also underlines that the UK has a manufacturing history. It’s all too easy to surrender our heritage and manufacturing assets in the interests of short sighted visions, were we not to take advantage of this opportunity to save the Whitechapel Foundry then we are further encouraging a time when we will become a customer of our own capabilities. We are looking forward to establishing ourselves into the east end communities, and with the recent news of the V&A moving in next door to us and UCL’s Institute of Sustainable Heritage setting itself up at Here East its seems that the pieces will be in place to enable the utilisation of disruptive technology with an understanding of manufacturing heritage. The Whitechapel Foundry will be a key player this. So we thoroughly support its retention and would be honoured to be involved in its next steps."
Peter Scully Technical Director, The Bartlett Manufacturing & Design Exchange (BMADE) Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
"I fully support the project to maintain a foundry in place of the former Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Crafts and the places where they are historically practiced are a treasure that must be preserved as a world wide heritage for humanity."
Dr Elisabeth Lebon, art foundries and casting processes history specialist, France.
"London is one of the world’s greatest capitals of music making - and the ringing of bells throughout the city is at its very heart - “Oranges and Lemons” and so on goes the famous rhyme, “Ringing out all over the towns, over the countryside and indeed across the world from Big Ben to America’s mythic Liberty Bell, but many many others too have been lovingly made over more than four centuries at the legendary Whitechapel Bell Foundry at the heart of London’s East End. Bells made to the highest standard are not easy to make. Are we really to allow this most special craft hailing from a special site in London just to disappear? The making of bells are at the heart of so many cultures from China to the East End of London. It needs more than ever to survive. ‘I do not know said the great Bell of Bow?’ We now need find ways to say ‘Yes’."
Sir Norman Rosenthal, Curator
“The world famous Whitechapel Foundry is a landmark – both for its splendid use and its fine historic buildings. Bells cast at the foundry have sounded in cities around the world for hundreds of years. For many, that sound represents the heart and soul of London, and in the case of Big Ben in the Palace of Westminster it is the sound of Freedom. The existing buildings deserve the highest level of recognition and protection as a unique and important part of our heritage.”
Dan Cruickshank. Historian.
“The re-established Whitechapel Bell Foundry would add significantly to the creative offer in East London. As the V&A East establishes a substantial presence at Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and develops particular links with the adjacent boroughs, we would welcome the opportunity to promote the Whitechapel-based art and bell foundry. Combining traditional skills with innovative technology and the offer of apprenticeship and further training in this specialized field will enhance the interpretation of the V&A’s important collection of works of art in bronze. Continuing the centuries-old tradition of bell founding in London with its global outreach will enrich the cultural presence and attract national, regional and international interest.”
Dr Tristram Hunt. Director V&A Museum
"The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a crucial component of historic Whitechapel. That it has survived for so long on this site and in such romantic Dickensian buildings is nothing short of a miracle. It’s survival as a working site is vital for both future generations and Whitechapel area as a whole.” Tim Whittaker The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust “In 1900 there were around 90 bell foundries in the UK, keeping going a tradition of several hundred years of supporting the wonderful heritage of ‘English Change Ringing’. There are now 2 left: Taylor’s of Loughborough and Westley Group, who took on the famous name of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on its closure in 2017. However, the ending of Whitechapel as a bell foundry is historically tragic, as is the age-old craftmanship that the company represented in creating new bells for the UK and countries that have English Change Ringing. If the foundry can be restored this will be a major and historic success for the bell world that I am sure that all of us will applaud and support.” Gregory Rose Bell ringer Senior bell ringer Peter Scott installing a bell at St. Magnus the Martyr, London. Twelve new bells were produced for the church in 2011 – the original bells had been removed in WWII. The bells and bronzes of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry have defined historic civic and church architecture around the world; the sound of Big Ben is the sound of Britain itself. This remarkable institution has been pivotal to the heritage of East London and should continue to be a centre for cultural tourism, historical research and the current resurgence of interest in crafts by becoming a permanent historic site. We at the Whitechapel Gallery have been proud to count the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as our neighbour and would support a future that would give it the international recognition it deserves."
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery
"I have studied bronze casting in the course of my professional duties for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles since 1995. Throughout these many years the Whitechapel Bell Foundry remained one of the most important resources for our community of scholars. Over the years as foundries closed throughout Europe and the US, the importance of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a functioning foundry only increased. There are very few resources remaining where the intricacies of this almost-lost art can be practiced, advanced and studied. I can assure you the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as an active business is a resource whose importance extends far beyond London."
Jane Basset, Senior Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The Whitechapel bell foundry is a site of national and international importance and there is support from around the country and beyond to re-established the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a working foundry for art and bell casting, keeping alive the long history of one of the most important English industrial sites for future generations.
Susan La Niece, FSA. The British Museum
"As director of a large collaborative pedagogical and research project that focuses on the intersections of craft making and scientific knowing, I was alarmed to hear that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was to be repurposed from a working foundry and making space to a leisure space for the well-to-do. There is significant interest and support for making/maker spaces in today's world, as most children no longer have the opportunity to take art and making courses as part of their school curriculum. The Project thus firmly opposes the re-purposing of this unique historic space, with its very significant cultural heritage value, and its already outfitted space for metal casting. I support the proposals from various cultural institutions, including the V&A Research Institute and Museum, to oversee the continuation of the centuries-old tradition of bell founding in London in this incomparable space. London can only be enriched by the presence of a working bell foundry, a rare cultural presence in a large metropolitan area, and it will attract national, regional, and international attention."
Pamela H. Smith, Professor of History. Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
"The historic value of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is inseparable from the site’s long continuity of use. The foundry, purpose-built in the 1740s and gradually adapted and enlarged since then, has unparalleled integrity as a long-lived workshop complex. The rarity anywhere in the world of such enduring manufacturing so deeply rooted in a single locality has long been recognised. The foundry had already been making bells for more than 200 years in 1951 when Denys Munby wrote that it ‘is so connected with the history of Whitechapel that it would be impossible to move it without wanton disregard of the associations of many generations.’ Sadly, 66 years later it moved. Alternative uses must be found. In this case, more than most, continuity should be a priority."
Peter Guillery, Survey of London, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been one of the world’s most important industrial enterprises linking unrivalled artisan skill with a great history of metalwork, moulding and casting. The Factum Foundation project will certainly make these skills and history viable and exciting for the coming century of artful digital knowhow and ingenious forms of retraining. WBF will retain and reinforce its place as an astonishing centre of the most sophisticated technical knowledge and its shared embodiment in the London community.
Simon Schaffer Professor of History of Science, Cambridge and Advisory Board Member, Science Museum
"Saving the foundry would make such a valuable stand for the retention of urban diversity, authenticity and our national cultural heritage. A place that cast both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell and is one of the oldest and most significant manufactories in the UK cannot be allowed to become another piece of bland and packaged townscape."
Tom Stuart-Smith Award-winning landscape architect, garden designer and writer
"It’s high time that London started protecting its most atmospheric historic shops and businesses. If the Metropolis’s streets aren’t to become dreary canyons of identikit boutiques, luxury flays and fast-food joints, we’ve got to act now! The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a near-miraculous, Dickensian, survival, and it’s in very grave danger of being lost forever. Possible salvation lies with Factum Arte - one of the most innovative and exciting impresarios of our time - who will cherish its idiosyncrasies, ancientness and spirit."
Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Landscape designer and former local resident