Rafe Heydel-Mankoo shared some sad news.
Does any city have a sound more instantly recognisable than the toll of Big Ben? The mighty bellâ€™s unmistakable hourly peal and the familiar Westminster Chime of its sister bells (“All through this hour; Lord, be my guide; And by Thy power; No foot shall slide”) are famous throughout the world, immediately conjuring up evocative images of a foggy day in old London town.
Bells have echoed through Londonâ€™s soundscape for centuries.
When London was a walled city, church bells rang out the curfew every evening to signal the locking of the city gates. Traditionally, true cockneys are said to be born within earshot of â€œBow Bellsâ€ (the bells of the church of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside), and generations of children have grown up singing â€œOranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clementsâ€, a nursery rhyme identifying the bells of various City churches.
Since 1570 many of Londonâ€™s most important bells have been produced by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the oldest manufacturing company in Britain and the most famous bell manufacturer in the world.
In 1752 Americaâ€™s famous Liberty Bell was struck here and just over a century later, in 1858, the Foundry cast Big Ben, its most famous bell. Visitors to the Whitechapel premises walk through a cross section of Big Ben upon entering the front door.
Over the centuries, the bells of the Whitechapel Foundry have rung out over cities as far afield as imperial St. Petersburg, Chennai, Washington DC and Toronto.
Alas, I am sad to announce that despite this magnificent history, after over two centuries in the same ancient building, this great London institution is to extinguish its Whitechapel furnace and close its doors forever in May 2017. The building is likely to be sold. What will become of the almost 450 year old company remains to be seen.
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