No. 733: Whitechapel Road, E1
Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Whitechapel Road, London, E1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012
Old and New London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places, Volume III- Edward Walford, 1878:
The first bell, which received the name of “Big Ben,” was cast in 1856 at Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, by Messrs. Warner, and weighed nearly 16 tons, with a clapper of 12 cwt. It bore the following inscription:- “Cast in the twentieth year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and in the year of our Lord 1856, from the design of Edmund Beckett Denison, Q.C.; Sir Benjamin Hall, Bart., M.P., Chief Commissioner of Works.” On the waist or middle of the bell were the royal arms, and the names of the founders and patentees of the mode of casting which had been adopted for it, “John Warner and Sons, Crescent Foundry, Cripplegate, London.” From the first, the fates seemed to be against the success of this bell, for on the voyage up to Westminster it was tossed about for several days at sea, and at the very starting stood a narrow chance of sending the vessel containing it to the bottom of the ocean. Arrived at Westminster, “Big Ben” found temporary shelter at the foot of the clock-tower, within hoarding and tarpaulin, and under a hugh pair of cat-gallows; and here its sonorous tone was tested before it was finally hoisted to its lofty destination. Whatever may have been the opinion formed of its tone and quality at the trials to which it was subjected, certain it is that it had jung but a few months before it gave strong evidence of being cracked. Its real state was at once investigated by Dr. Percy, who reported that it was “porous, unhomogenous, unsound, and a defective casting.” Its doom was thus sealed. “Big Ben” was forthwith brought to the hammer, broken up and done for, and a new bell was at once cast in the foundry of Messers. Mears, in Whitechapel. About this new bell there is no mistake.
[ The Whitechapel Foundry does not just cast bells of the size of Big Ben as can be seen in the photograph above. More about the foundry can be read by visiting the company’s website by clicking here. R.D.]