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Call in for Whitechapel Bell Foundry Planning Application

For Immediate Release

Release Date: 23rd January

Call in for Whitechapel Bell Foundry Planning Application

Re-Form Heritage and Factum Foundation are pleased and encouraged by the news that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has called in the planning decision on the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

The historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry 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. Developer Raycliff Whitechapel LLP, the current owners, submitted a planning application to convert the site into a boutique hotel and hospitality venue, which Tower Hamlets Development Committee voted to approve in November despite significant concerns about the suitability of the proposal by thousands of individuals and heritage organisations. The call in means that the Raycliff Whitechapel LLP planning application will now be subject to a public inquiry.

A campaign to save the site by reinstating foundry activity in Whitechapel has local, national and international support. A partnership between Factum Foundation and Re-Form Heritage has been formed to deliver a financially viable 21st-century foundry. The partnership draws upon Re-Form Heritage’s experience regenerating unique industrial heritage sites and Factum Foundation’s internationally renowned preservation and training work that merges new technology and craft skills.

Responding to the announcement, Adam Lowe of Factum Foundation said:

“We aim to reinvent the Bell foundry in Whitechapel as a unique working environment; using the latest output, software and moulding technologies to cast bells for a global market, building an archive of 3D and acoustic recordings of great bells around the country, creating bell related sculptures with artists like Grayson Perry wanting to revitalise the foundry, celebrating the history of traditional bell casting techniques with Nigel Taylor who had forty years of experience at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, building connections with the V&A, the Bartlett Workshops and the historical casting expert Andrew Lacey to provide innovative educational resources and offering apprenticeships and training in an area where wealth and poverty sit side by side.”

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

“This is one of the UK’s most important heritage sites and is the centre of a 450-year tradition of casting and founding in Whitechapel. Traditions such as these create the identity of an area and deserve to be valued and respected. The partnership between Re-Form Heritage and Factum Foundation honours the history of creative and manufacturing innovation in Whitechapel and builds upon this in a relevant and sensitive way. We look forward to engaging with the public inquiry process following this very welcome announcement.” 

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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.

Re-Form Heritage is the new name for the charity formerly known as the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT). Charity number: 1059662.


Factum Foundation

Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation is a not-for-profit organisation founded by Adam Lowe in 2009. Factum Foundation works closely with its sister company Factum Arte (created in 2001), a multi-disciplinary workshop mediating the complex boundary between technology and contemporary art.


Further Information

For further information related to this press release, please email news@re-form.org – or call 07956888432.


6th – 28th October 2020

Public Inquiry – Virtual, online event via Microsoft Teams

On 6th October, at 10am, the public inquiry that will start to decide the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, will take place as a virtual event.

Your support and presence are needed more than ever: this is the chance make your voice heard and prevent the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from becoming a boutique-hotel based on the model of Soho House. The caterer identified by Raycliff (who will occupy a significant part of the historic building if the planning decision is upheld) is the Major Food Group who run 22 themed-restaurants in the US and were responsible for the controversial redesign of the Landmark protected restaurant in the Seagram building in New York, described as ‘one of the greatest modernist buildings ever built’.

As Edgar Bronfman Jr, former Chief Executive of the Seagram Company said:
“What is at stake here is whether ownership trumps preservation, whether deception triumphs over transparency and whether the wealth, power and influence of a building’s proprietors can trample both the fundamental integrity of an historic space and the commission created to protect and preserve such spaces.’’

Please save the dates and attend the public inquiry starting on 6th October, via Microsoft Teams.

The inspector has indicated that the day for representations from members of the public is 27th October 2020.

Click here to get further information on how to use Microsoft Teams

Alternatively you can take part by telephone. 

Calls would be to an 020 number which will incur charges.

Here is how you can attend to the online event:

Elizabeth Humphrey
The Planning Inspectorate
Temple Quay House
2 The Square

“The future of bell making is bright. The churches are no longer the main commissioners of bells but the market is diversifying and new opportunities exist around the world, from courtyard houses in China via the use of scanning and re-making for preservation to the creation of bell-related editions with artists.”
Adam Lowe
Founder of Factum Foundation

Over the past years, Factum Foundation and Re-Form Heritage have been fighting to demonstrate that a viable future, answering local and international needs, is possible for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It is possible to reinvigorate the site and turn it into a working foundry again, specialising in the production of bells and works of art, together with a 3D and acoustic archive and research centre which will conduct bell recording, undertake research into historic casting methods, and develop machine learning predictive software to assist in the preservation of bells around the country and beyond.

We want to thank all 25,000 people who signed the petition, our supporters in the Mosque, the readers of the Spitalfield’s Life blog, and all those who were present during the protests and worked with us to reach this critical stage of our campaign to preserve and revitalise Britain’s oldest single-purpose industrial building.  If many of you turn up to the inquiry, it will make the difference!

The bells cast at Whitechapel are the voices of nations: they mark the world’s celebrations and sorrows, representing principles of emancipation, freedom of expression and justice. These buildings, and the skills that have for centuries been honed within them, represent some of the most important intangible cultural heritage in Britain.

For those interested in supporting the initiative to save and revitalise the Bell Foundry in Whitechapel, there are a number of ways to be of assistance beyond attending the Inquiry:

  • Share the website Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry with your contacts.
  • Here you can sign a petition to register your support. We also need donations to fight the public inquiry. Winning the public inquiry is the first step. After this, we will have to acquire the building and carry out our ambitious plans.
  • By visiting  www.savethewhitechapelbellfoundry.com and clicking on “Donate”, you will be redirected to Re-Form’s website where it is possible to make a donation, filling the amount of your choice.
  • Further information is available on Spitalfields Life, the inspirational blog devoted to life in the East End.
  • Visit Factum Foundation’s online page and see the development of the fight to keep the site as a working bell foundry.
  • We are also looking for people in historic and preservation societies who are interested in learning how new technology can help create an archive of various types of information that will help revitalise interest in bells, their production and their digital and physical restoration. We need your support to build a network that will allow these noble objects to be valued and appreciated. Please write to info@factumfoundation.org.

Public Inquiry – 6th October 2020

We have been informed that the public inquiry will be held at the Council’s chamber: https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/council_and_democracy/council_departments_and_offic/council_offices/mulberry_place.aspx

The inquiry will open at 10am on 6th October.

It is encouraged that everyone who wants to attend and hopefully speak, at this public inquiry, should register to do so.

Requests to attend and/or speak at the public inquiry should be sent to Elizabeth Humphrey at PINS by email to:


Or in writing by post to:

Elizabeth Humphrey

The Planning Inspectorate

Temple Quay House

2 The Square



Requests should be cc’d to the officer handling the appeal at LBTH: Simon Westmorland Simon.Westmorland@towerhamlets.gov.uk

It is also advised to also cc: Development.Control@TowerHamlets.gov.uk

Representations should refer to the appeal reference APP/E5900/V/20/3245430 and the LBTH application reference numbers PA/19/00008 (FPP) and PA/19/00009 (LBC).

UKHBPT Press Release – Future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry site – Boutique hotel approved

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Release Date: 14 November 2019

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Planning Committee Votes to Allow Boutique Hotel

on the Historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry Site

The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT), Factum Foundation and the many partners and supporters in the business world and local community are deeply saddened by the decision of Tower Hamlets Development Committee to grant planning consent for a boutique hotel on the site of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

The 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. Developer Raycliff Whitechapel LLP had submitted an application to convert the site into a boutique hotel and hospitality venue, which Tower Hamlets planning officers had subsequently recommended for approval. The Development Committee’s decision means that the Foundry will be gone forever, along with the skills, the jobs and the community pride and social cohesion that sprang from the site of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Stephen Musgrave, Chairman of UKHBPT said:

“The committee’s decision to support the developer’s spurious plans for the old foundry buildings fails to take into account the financial viability of the offered alternative foundry use, the powerful planning case against the application, the irreversible heritage damage to an internationally renowned building and the opposition of people from across the local community, London and the world. Nonetheless, without our collective efforts the Foundry would have been lost without a whimper, as those tasked with the defence of our historic assets stood by and watched. An important national debate has taken place. We have forced the developer to make substantial improvements to their original plans but we remain unconvinced that their pastiche designs for the historic element will be anything but a short-term sop.”

Adam Lowe, Founder of Factum Foundation said:

“Tower Hamlets Development Committee has chosen to ignore Factum Foundation’s commitment to establish on the site a financially viable 21st-century artistic foundry based on our internationally renowned preservation and training work that merges new technology and craft skills. It has chosen to ignore the operational experience of UKHBPT at its other UK heritage sites and the proven benefits such operations bring to the broader community. Financial viability is a central tenet of everything these partners do and their business case would have seen the retention of a new and thriving foundry business with global reach.”

Clare Wood, Chief Executive of UKHBPT said:

“The Committee seems to have been swayed by the developer’s sketches of a small imitation bell workshop as part of a themed coffee shop space, their decision seemingly based on a few unrealistic visualisations. The heart and soul of the building and its reason for being will be gone. Instead of being a revitalised place of pilgrimage of global interest and a huge boost to the local economy it will be another boutique hotel of no interest to anyone but its transient clientele.

Despite the extraordinary, unpaid efforts of the many partners and professionals who fought to save the building this is a sad day for Britain’s vulnerable heritage buildings and an indictment of the planning process. Heritage stands at the heart of our communities and, as a result of today’s decision, is now more than ever under threat.”

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Notes to Editors

United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT)

UKHBPT is a registered charity which specialises in the restoration and rejuvenation of historic buildings at risk of decay or demolition. UKHBPT transforms these historic buildings into local assets, creating job opportunities and catalysing wider social and economic benefit. UKHBPT charity number: 1059662


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.


Tower Hamlets Development Committee

Papers from the Development Committee meeting can be found via this link: https://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=312

Further Information

For further information related to this press release, please contact Clare Wood, clare.wood@ukhbpt.org, 07956 888 432.

Our campaign

The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust’s plans for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

For more information about the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust and Factum Foundation’s plans for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, please go to www.ukhbpt.org and www.factumfoundation.org

 In July 2019 Banco Santander released a video about their relationship with Factum “A story of how Santander is changing the way banks and companies work”.  https://youtu.be/9oLoj4mPF9Y

For all press and media enquiries about our campaign and plans please email: news@ukhbpt.org

Why the Raycliff planning application to turn the Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel should be rejected. Application PA/19/00008/A1

There is a perfectly viable proposal put forward by the United Kingdom Building Preservation Trust together with its partner, Factum Foundation to continue to operate a full-scale working foundry. This proposal has a credible business plan, experienced management and funding available. The trust has done this before to great success. Support for this proposal will ensure that Whitechapel retains one of London’s finest craft facilities in the world, adding to the cultural and artistic value of Whitechapel for years to come.

This speculative and inappropriate change of use for the foundry as proposed by the developer must be rejected.

  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain’s oldest continuous business established in the 1570’s. Given this unique status the foundry is listed grade2*.
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a global British brand and a part of London’s rich cultural heritage and Whitechapel’s DNA.
  • In June 2017 the foundry was deliberately closed despite an offer in March 2017 from the United Kingdom Building Preservation Trust to acquire the foundry at its market value. This offer was rejected and the foundry closed in June 2017 solely to enable a developer to seek a change of use and redevelop the site.
  • There is no market evidence to demonstrate that a foundry cannot continue to operate on the Whitechapel site as it has done for hundreds of years. Refusing to sell the foundry as a working foundry is not evidence, it is cultural vandalism.
  • The continuous use as a foundry is the optimum viable use and the right use for this unique site. ALL alternative uses should be rejected.
Members of East End Preservation Society deliver their petition to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to Downing St in 2017 (photograph Sarah Ainslie)

Notwithstanding these fundamental points there are additional reasons why a boutique hotel with a private members club and rooftop swimming pool should be rejected.

  • The local population are overwhelmingly against this proposal. Some 20,000 people have signed the petition against the development. Community groups such as Spitalfields Trust, the East End Preservation Society and the East End Trades Guild all support saving the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
  • The neighbouring East London Mosque was not consulted by the developer and considers the scheme proposed to be wholly inappropriate. The mosque wishes to see a rejuvenated foundry neighbour with whom they can build skills and training partnerships for the local community.
  • The suggestion that the scheme includes a reinstatement of a working foundry is tokenism. The concept of a working foundry on 12% of the original foundry site placed alongside a café is simply unworkable and with considerable health and safety risks. Founding bells and brewing coffee in the same area is not sensible and will not happen.
  • The scheme contradicts the Council’s ‘Whitechapel Vision Rejuvenation Prospectus’ and the GLA’s ‘Thames Estuary Production Corridor’.

Where to send your objection

You can write an email to planningandbuilding@towerhamlets.gov.uk or you can send a letter to Town Planning, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG. Be sure to include your postal address and the application reference PA/19/00008/A1

Sign our petition on change.org and follow our twitter account for campaign updates.