Whitechapel Bell Foundry
On a bright Saturday morning, 25 members and guests of the Lime Street Ward Club entered the compact and historical premises of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The introduction by Alan Hughes, Managing Director and Assistant Foundryman, promised a fascinatingly informative and jocular tour .
We were not disappointed, we were taken through the full process of bell making from tiny hand bells to a bell the size of “Big Ben”, weighing in at 13.5 tons! We discovered the creative values of goat’s hair and horse manure in making the moulds and that tin, although a weaker metal, increases the strength of a bell the more it is used with copper to make this impressive brass instrument.
The foundry that made The Liberty Bell (1752) and Big Ben (1858) is still making bells for churches and institutions, globally.
The tour had its Health and Safety issues as great care had to be taken by those less vertically challenged (Over 5’8″ and bumps into beams – very likely)
There are apparently only 7 current Bell Foundries world-wide (none in the US – the largest market) The competitors are regarded as ” Colleagues” We were regaled with a range of facts, figures and stories e.g. Bell ringers in England “ring the changes” (playing every permutation of order that can be created – Bell 1, 2, 3 then Bell 3,2,1.etc. The number of permutation 1 x 2 x 3 = 6. St Michael’s Cornhill were in the process of having a peal of 12 bells installed 1 x 2 x 3 x 4……….permutations (Approx. 37 years of non-stop bell ringing)
Diagometrics formed part of the tuning process which requires carefully shaving the bell from top down to achieve the perfect octave range.
The Foundry, once based in Billiter Street and but a stone’s throw from Lime Street, has been traced back to 1420 and is supported by only 25 staff.
This superb visit was crowned by a stroll towards Spittlefields and an excellent light lunch at Strada
Regrettably the Foundry closed in 2018, with the site likely to become a boutique hotel.