Thursday, 14 November 2019

Passing Bells

In days gone by "Passing bells" were bells rung to announce a death, and to call people to prayer. [as in Wilfred Owen's poem] Today is the day when many of us are hoping and praying that bells will not be rung to announce the demise of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London.
I have been blogging about the possible destruction of this wonderful place for three years now. And I will continue to rant about it. This is part of our nation's history, but the greed of property developers, and the apparent unwillingness to listen, by those who give planning permission have brought matters to a head.
The Gentle Author, of the blog "Spitalfields Life" explains it far better than I can.
Please read what she has said here and here 
This is part of our heritage - and in this foundry have been produced some of the bells which are famous around the world
Big Bell
The Liberty Bell
The 9-11 Memorial Bell of Hope
The bells of St Clement Danes ["oranges and lemons"]
The Great Bell of Montreal
The bells of St Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
Bow Bells- broadcast on the radio during WW2 as a symbol of freedom and resistance to fascism...
Bells have been cast in Whitechapel for over six hundred years. Shakespeare would have walked past this foundry and heard the bells, in 1588 the people of England rejoiced in the victory over the Spanish Armada, and Whitechapel bells pealed the news across the land - and in 1918 and 1945, they rejoiced again as bells announced the end of war. Bells made here, or restored here were rung as we entered the new millennium at the start of 2000.
For centuries, those who have laboured here have been commemorated by plaques on the wall. This has been a true 'family' business.
And now they want to turn it into a "Boutique Hotel" The Planning Committee are making their decision about 'change of use' today.
The Gentle Author says
The planning regulations for Change of Use for industrial premises are precise. Firstly, the owner must prove that the previous use is no longer viable. There is no evidence of this with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Secondly, the owner must prove that no-one wanted to buy the premises and continue the previous use. In this case, UK Historic Building Preservation Trust offered to buy the foundry to run it as a working foundry before the sale went through to Raycliff. Thirdly, the owner must market the property for a year seeking a company to continue the previous use. Raycliff have not done this.

Tower Hamlets Planning Committee’s legal responsibility is to decide the Optimum Viable Use for the foundry. By its nature, there can be only one Optimum Viable Use. So, while a boutique hotel might be viable, it is obvious that the Optimum Viable Use for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is as a foundry.
It does seem that Tower Hamlets have, thus far, ignored the pleas of the local people, and the offer of the UK Historic Buildings Preservation Trust, to maintain the foundry.
This is Robert Oliver- his family have worked at the FouNdry for 250 years - Robert is holding a bell made by his late father.
Along with thousands of others, I signed the petition to preserve this place. I really hope that THPC reconsider earlier decisions, and recognise that we will lose something very precious if they allow the developers to have their way.
Today is the day...
UPDATE: sadly the green light was given to the developers. Objectors are now considering whether to launch a judicial review... We wait and hope... 


  1. Hope the foundry is saved, Angela.

  2. Councils and planning departments make me so cross with this. It's happened so many times in Redbridge that they've approved something crazy all because of greed. You know they'll then turn it into luxury flats if the hotel doesn't work out. That happened to the URC church that used to be at the end of my road. It had a preservation order on it and somehow it got knocked down and the most ugly flats are now there. I hope and pray that good sense and decency will prevail.x

  3. Where we live in brittany the passing bell is still rung , often the first indication that someone in the village has died .


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