About Whitechapel Bell Foundry
They use many traditional skills alongside modern technology and you can walk around the side of the building and see the foundry in action. There are weekend Foundry Tours but they are incredibly popular and you may well have to book up to a year in advance.
I've been on a foundry tour and can recommend it. I booked six months in advance, when the following year's tour dates were released so this does require some forward planning. The Foundry Manager took a group of about 30 people around the buildings and explained the manufacturing processes in an informative yet witty style. ("I employ three men to make mud pies and two men to make sand castles".)
I found out why industrial manufacturing industries were always on the east of cities: because of the prevailing wind from the west keeping the smells out of the city, and I was shocked to discover there are no moulds and every bell is therefore unique.
The specialist workforce at the foundry have unusual jobs and many stay for their whole working life. The foundry motto is: "Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself."
Ben Big is the hour bell in the middle and and there are quarter bells too. Big Ben's official name is the Great Bell but nobody calls it that.
Big Ben is still the biggest bell they have ever made. Today, their business is 75% church and tower bells and almost 25% hand bells. Bells are not cheap but they are made to last and should be maintenance free for 150 years and should last 1000 years.
There are newspaper clippings, video footage, paper records, honors and awards, so lots to see. Do look for the full-size Big Ben bell template over the doorway on the inside. Wow, it's big!
Address: 32/34 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1DY
Tel: 020 7247 2599
Museum Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am - 4.15pm
Official Website: www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk