Operating on this site since the 1740s, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was responsible for the creation of some of the world’s most famous bells, including Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell. However, the demand for church bells declined year on year while the costs of employment and keeping up with manufacturing legislation and insurances continued to rise. The buildings are also in need of extensive upgrading. After years of struggling against economic pressures and the high cost of maintaining the listed premises, the current directors of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry Ltd, Alan and Kathryn Hughes, took the decision to sell the premises and to redistribute the business in order to ensure the continuation of its products into the future.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry Ltd continues as a company and owns all the pattern equipment and tooling for the manufacture of tower bells, musical handbells, clock bells and small presentation bells as well as the company’s extensive archives. The Westley Group, based in Stoke on Trent, continues the manufacture of tower bells under licence and Bells Of Whitechapel Ltd continues the production and maintenance of musical handbells and small bells. The archives are being conserved at the London Metropolitan Archives to allow public access to the collection at the expense of Whitechapel Bell Foundry Ltd. Most of the skilled employees formerly employed at Whitechapel are re-employed within the industry. John Taylor & Company, based in Loughborough, continue to cast new tower bells.
As part of our work to ensure the traditions of the site are reinstated, we have continued to engage with the Hughes family and are also working alongside the Westley Group – one of the largest and most successful industrial founding companies in the UK (who are also licensed by the Hughes family to produce Whitechapel Tower Bells, thereby maintaining the historic link) – and the AB Fine Art Foundry, a local Tower Hamlets business with an international reputation.
Working together, they will provide the expertise that offers a continuation of founding on this important historic site. More than this, they will educate and train a whole new generation of practitioners in this ancient skill.
The Old Foundry will look to the future too. Anatole Notes, based in Bethnal Green, will manage artists’ workshops and workspace on-site (including flexible affordable space for the creative industries) and we are still discussing how the Whitechapel Gallery could curate an artists’ residency programme and/or facilitate art events, helping to discover the next generation of talent from the East End.
Together we will work to ensure that the art and celebration of bell founding remains prominent in the site’s future.
We have held two phases of community-wide consultation in June and September 2018 on the proposals for the design, layout and uses of the site. Click here to find out more about the consultation.
If you would like to be involved in the ongoing consultation or have any questions in the meantime, please email email@example.com or call 0800 298 704.