When a company and its premises are as historic as the Whitechapel Bell Foundry,
and as unusual (there are currently only two bell foundries casting bells in the
UK), they will naturally attract the attention of the news and documentary
media. Indeed, barely a month seems to go by without some TV or radio crew
descending on the foundry. Here are two recent filmed items that can be viewed
What you may not know is that the foundry has also been associated with several drama productions over the years.One of the earliest of these, in 1988, was an episode of the series 'Hannay', which was based on the adventures of John Buchan's fictional hero Richard Hannay and which starred actor Robert Powell, still best known for playing the lead in 'Jesus of Nazareth'. Set in 1913, the episode was titled 'The Bells of Shoreditch' and had Hannay on the trail of gold smugglers. Given the period the episode was set in, it was necessary to disguise all manner of modern features, most notably the many fluorescent lights about the foundry. Several of our employees got to be background extras. A few years later, part of an episode of the 1992/3 TV series 'The Good Guys' - which started Nigel Havers, Keith Barron, and Leslie Grantham - was shot here. This consisted of a chase scene that had Havers and Barron fleeing through the foundry, knocking items over on the way. Also in the early 1990s our back office - suitably redressed - stood in for that of railway pioneer George Stephenson in the dramatized section of a documentary about the early years of the railways in Britain.
Surprisingly, given our location and how little much of the exterior of our main office buildings has changed since that time, the foundry has never been used in any of the many dramas based around the crimes of Jack the Ripper.If advertisments can be considered a form of fiction, then a passing mention should be made of the magazine ad for Golden Virginia tobacco photographed in our loam foundry in November 1989.
In 1998 when we were asked to provide a quotation for augmenting the ring of bells at St.Stephen's, the local church of the village of Ambridge, in the county of Borsetshire. Yes, we were once again involved with long-running radio drama 'The Archers'. (In an episode twenty years earlier, Shula Archer had referred to a bell inspection by "that nice Mr Hughes".) This time the producers wanted to introduce a storyline that had the villagers raising money for new bells as a project for the millennium and so they approached the foundry for a quotation in order that the sums of money mentioned in the scripts should be accurate, and also to determine what would be required of local people if such an installation went ahead. A drawing and quotation were duly prepared and supplied to the producers. Which is why, to this day, in among entries in our files for villages the length and breadth of the country, is one for the fictional village of Ambridge.Our most recent fictional appearance came, surprisingly, in the world of comics. FREAKANGELS is an 864 page comic written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Paul Duffield which was serialized online weekly from 2008 to 2011 and still available to read in its entirety for free. Set in a post-apocalyptic Whitechapel, its characters inevitably find their way to the foundry, which is now boarded up. That sequence begins here:
We were intrigued by the huge cellar the artist drew under the front offices. If we had such a cellar, it would be extremely useful.
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