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Notes and news — November 1972

In this issue:

Visit to Whitechapel Bell Foundry and walk through Spitalfields. 16.9.72.

While 20th-century traffic roars along Whitechapel Road it is hard to appreciate that behind the little Georgian façade of no. 34 there still thrives an industry which dates back more than five centuries. The company claims to have been making bells since 1570 — but this seems to be a false claim for recent research has traced the company back a further 150 years! The present site has been occupied since 1738, and the visitor can see the constant change and development which has taken place in the foundry since then. The tell-tale traces of the structural alterations to the buildings were expertly pointed out to the GLIAS party by Mr Douglas Hughes whose family has been 'master founders' since 1904. The founding process itself has changed little over the centuries but the company keeps abreast of modern science with such developments as the sophisticated tuning system and a new light-weight belfry frame.

The visit was followed by a walk through the district, where the Brick Lane brewery (with buildings dating from 1730), the markets of Spitalfields (1886-93), Leadenhall (1881) and Billingsgate (1875), and the contrasting Liverpool Street (1875) and Broad Street (1886) stations were the main buildings of interest. But more interesting for the industrial archaeologist are the early 18th-century streets and buildings, many now housing small textile and tailoring workshops, which are obviously on the verge of being demolished and redeveloped.

The process of bell-making is described in the booklet 'The Whitechapel Bell Foundry', available from the foundry at 15p (plus postage). A sheet of notes drawing attention to the items of interest on the walk is still available from Ken Catford, 22 Parkwood, Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, BR3 1TR (s.a.e., please).

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© GLIAS, 1972