diamond geezer

 Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I hear the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is closing down. I don't know about you but I haven't bought a bell recently, so I don't think I'll be inconvenienced. The company's been up and running since 1570, so perhaps it's not surprising that nobody wants to buy its products any more. They couldn't even cope with the London 2012 commission, because that was too big, so what hope is there for the future? It's not like there isn't somewhere else in the country that can cast bells, because there's still a working foundry in Loughborough, so any churches with campanology issues can head there.

I went down yesterday and it doesn't look especially closed, so things can't be that bad. What's more the building nextdoor is already behind a hoarding, so there's clearly some kind of redevelopment nexus underway in this part of Whitechapel. The former workshops immediately across the road have long been replaced by offices and some useful shops, while the buildings across Fieldgate Street have evolved into student accommodation with a Tesco Metro underneath. Both of these are much better uses of valuable land, in a part of town rife with housing pressure, but I fear the listed nature of the foundry buildings precludes subdivision into flats.

Well meaning campaigners have whipped up a petition to complain about the foundry's closure, and almost 5000 people have so far added their names. There's even a website to create awareness amongst the wider public, not that any of the wider public ever buy bells either, otherwise the foundry wouldn't be closing. Such are the harsh realities of modern economic life, and it's wrong to go round propping up businesses that should be allowed to fail. It's all too late anyway, because the contents of the building are already up for auction, should you fancy getting hold of a rotary furnace, thermal arc welder or 2 tonne travelling crane, not to mention various unsold bells.

When the foundry disappears some other business can become Britain's oldest surviving manufacturing company, because it's their turn now. Tourists don't want to hike out to Whitechapel anyway, not to to see the empty shell of a building when there are more interesting coffee shops and cocktail bars in town. We cannot afford to get nostalgic when what London needs is basic facilities to support a growing population. Our historic buildings are being lost forever, and who are we to stand in the way?

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