A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Some famous bells were cast in this factory, such as Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. The foundry is located not far from where I work, at the bottom of Brick Lane. When the tour began, we were told a brief history of the foundry and told that this is the only one that remains now, but there were a few in London in older times.
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is located on Whitechapel Road, just a block away from where the church stood that once occupied the spot before it was destroyed in World War II. The premises was expanded over the years, so the rooms are different sizes with low ceilings in some places and narrow walkways.
Facade of the foundry building
Inside the bell foundry is a small museum and a gift shop. Images of some of the bells and making bells is shown on a screen. The queen visited it recently, and they had a busy year in 2012 with various bells for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics as there were bells used in the river Thames pageant.
We were shown around the rooms, and in the first room, we were told about how the metal was made by combining different substances (stone, bronze, etc.) and melting the metal, pouring into moulds, and the machinery to do this.
Several bells were around the room in various states of repair. I enjoyed the very brief history and some of the information about making bells, but we had a very large group who seemed to be very interested in bell-ringing and the musical side (I think they were part of a group who ring bells), so most of the tour was taken over by the musical side of bells. This did not interest me or make sense to me, so I was a little bit disappointed as I wanted to know more about the history and about how the bells were made.
We were shown where the bells were 'trimmed' of metal in order to create the correct notes and we were told in detail about how this was done and shown where this happened.
The last room showed how bells could be hung and various mechanics for this. There were a lot of bells under repair in this room. A lot of these bells come from all over the world as there are not many bell foundries in the world.
I liked reading the inscriptions on the bells and seeing the detail and typography used to decorate the bells.
The bells made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry have their own special seal. The one below was made last year.
In addition, the company make musical bells and small hand bells. I bought a couple of dinner bells when I booked the tour last summer. These are made in part of the expanded cottages, which are located up some flights of stairs. There's also a carpenter's room on site.
We were told about how the bells were tuned.
On the way out, we went through a courtyard and listened to one of the bells ring.
Exterior of foundry