13/05/2021

Secretary of State permits boutique hotel on historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry site

The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has granted consent that permits development of a hotel on the site of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The decision followed a public inquiry in October 2020.

Re-Form Heritage, Factum Foundation and its many partners and supporters are deeply disappointed by the decision. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry site is Britain’s oldest single-purpose industrial building where Big Ben, the Liberty Bell, Bow Bells and many of the world’s great bells were made.

Re-Form Heritage opposed the hotel development at the October planning inquiry, presenting a viable alternative through a partnership with Factum Foundation to reinstate production of bells on the site and advance bell founding innovation by combining traditional manufacturing skills with new technologies. The Secretary of State’s decision ends hope that the long-term future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry site can be secured through the creation of a 21stC foundry. The announcement means that the site’s reason for being and its extraordinary intangible cultural heritage has gone forever, along with the skills, the jobs and the community pride associated with Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Clare Wood, Chief Executive of Re-Form Heritage said:

The Secretary of State’s decision comes as a huge disappointment to all those who have fought to see this historic site continue in its role as an internationally renowned foundry. There is no comfort to be gained from this decision, which will see irreversible damage to an internationally renowned Grade II* listed site. Nonetheless, without our collective efforts, the site and its traditions stretching back over 400 years would have been lost without a whimper. An important national debate has taken place. We can only hope that the inquiry is a wakeup call to prevent such losses in the future”.

Adam Lowe, founder of Factum Foundation said:

It is with great sadness that a site with such a rich history, potential and artistic significance over centuries will now be subsumed into a bland hotel. The decision overlooks Factum Foundation’s commitment to establish on the site a financially viable, modern foundry building upon our extensive expertise in artistic casting and it ignores the operational experience of Re-Form Heritage at its other heritage sites and the proven benefits such operations bring to the broader community. We wish to thank everyone who supported our campaign and saw more relevance in revitalising the Whitechapel Bell Foundry than turning it into yet another boutique hotel”.

The campaign to save Whitechapel Bell Foundry comprised the efforts of many professionals; local residents and community organisations including the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre, East End Preservation Society and The Spitalfields Trust; 28,000 petition signatories and 900 objections to the hotel planning application. Despite this enormous opposition to the hotel proposal, conversion of the site now looks likely to proceed.

Notes to Editors

Re-Form Heritage

Re-Form Heritage is a registered charity which specialises in the restoration and rejuvenation of historic buildings at risk of decay or demolition. Re-Form Heritage transforms these historic buildings into local assets, creating job opportunities and catalysing wider social and economic benefit. Registered charity number: 1059662 www.re-form.org

Factum Foundation

Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, founded in 2009 by Adam Lowe and based in Madrid, is a not-for-profit organisation using new technology in the preservation of at-risk cultural heritage. http://www.factumfoundation.org/

Further Information

For further information related to this press release, please contact

Clare Wood, clare.wood@re-form.org, 07956 888 432.