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Britain’s Oldest Manufacturer

By Linda Tancs

London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry is listed in Guinness World Records as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. How old, however, is a matter of debate. Once thought to be established in 1570 (during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign), additional research has revealed an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V). Regardless of its age, the world’s best known foundry on Whitechapel Road is responsible for some very big chimes. The largest bell ever cast there (in 1858) is none other than Big Ben, weighing in at 13 1/2 tons. Another famous bell hailing from the foundry is the original Liberty Bell, commissioned by order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1751 for the Statehouse in Philadelphia. Other exports followed worldwide.

UPDATE 5/8/17: The foundry, once open for guided tours on select Saturdays year round, is sadly closing its doors. The very last tower bell to be cast at the Whitechapel site is for the Museum of London, to which the foundry is donating many artifacts including old machinery, items to provide a display about bell manufacture and items that the foundry has in its possession pertaining to the making of Big Ben.

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