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The Final Bell

The foundry closed in 2017. Not only did they cast the thirteen and a half ton Big Ben in 1858, (Big Ben is the bell, not the Great Clock Tower that houses it) but they were also responsible for the famous American Liberty Bell in 1752. This small foundry in the East End of London has been casting bells for hundreds of years and was recognised as the oldest manufacturing company in Britain at one time. The foundry has a tiny shop front in Whitechapel Road but the space behind is very large. It was founded in 1570 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st. but links to the foundry have been traced back as far as 1420. It moved to Whitechapel in 1738 and finally cast its last bell on 22nd. of March 2017 when the business was sold to Whites of Appleton. On it's closure it donated many documents and artefacts to the Museum of London. I had a tour of the foundry during non working hours in August 2007 and found it to be much more labour intense than I had imagined. Most things were done as they had been for centuries. The only modern additions I could see were the furnaces and the electronic tuning sounders. I only wish I had heard about the closure in time to have another tour for some improved photos.

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell was ordered in 1745 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for use in the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). It was delivered in September 1753 via the ship Hibernia. In the following March the bell was hung from temporary scaffolding in the square outside the State House. To the dismay of onlookers the bell was dropped and cracked while it was being put up. Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, wrote "I had the mortification to hear that it was cracked by the foolishness of one of our fellow Americans as it was hung up to try the sound." While a replacement from Whitechapel was ordered, the bell was rebuilt by John Pass and John Stow of Philadelphia, whose surnames appear inscribed on the bell. They added copper to the alloy used to cast the bell, and the tone of the new bell proved unsatisfactory. They recast the bell again, restoring the correct balance of metal, and this third bell was hung in the steeple of the State House in June 1753. It is not certain when the second crack appeared but was repaired in February 1846. The method of repair, known as stop drilling, required drilling along the hairline crack so that the sides of the fracture would not reverberate. On February 22, 1846, the bell was tolled for several hours for George Washington's birthday. The crack grew from the top of the repaired crack to the crown of the bell, rendering it unusable. Bell Foundry Photos >>

Big Ben

Probably the most famous bell to be cast at the foundry was Big Ben; the one that chimes from the Great Clock tower at Westminster. It has an unmistakable tone. You can tell it apart from any other bell once you have heard it. The reason for this is that the bell cracked when first installed. Apparently the wrong type of hammer was installed which caused a small crack to appear and slightly altered the tone of the bell. When this was discovered, the correct hammer was fitted and Big Ben was rotated to provide a fresh undamaged striking point. There are two theories as to how the bell got it’s name. The first is that it was named after the prize fighter Benjamin Caunt, who had in 1857 lasted sixty rounds of a drawn contest in his final appearance at the age of 42. As Caunt at one period scaled 17 stone, his nickname was Big Ben. The second story is that parliament had a special sitting to decide on a suitable name for the great hour bell. During the course of the debate, and amid the many suggestions that were made, Chief Lord of the Woods and Forests, Sir Benjamin Hall, a large and ponderous man known affectionately in the House as "Big Ben", rose and gave an impressively long speech on the subject and so it was put forward by others that it should be named after him. At the time of this update, 2022, it is sounding again after being silent for some time due to renovations of the tower.
The Foundry Logo The Foundry shop front Inside the foundry A mold for casting bells The Liberty Bell. Photo: William Zhang