NEWS NEWS
MID-AUGUST 2002

AN APOLOGY

Due to circumstances beyond our control, it has not been possible to email the Foundry either directly or via links from this site for several months. This was because of a major failure of our computer systems, one which turned out to be more serious than anticipated and which we have been working with our systems supplier to sort out. We appear to have finally got a working email connection again and would like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who has tried, and failed, to contact us in that time.


THE 1881 LIBEL CASE

A few weeks ago, in the course of redecorating one of the rooms in the older part of the Foundry office building, we made a discovery in a long-neglected cupboard. Alongside an old Victorian model of a wooden bellframe (there would have been produced for specific installations for those unable to read engineering drawings, and there are several still in existence at the Foundry) were three dusty boxfiles. Two of these contained nothing more interesting than rubbings taken of the inscriptions on various bells, but the third box was a real surprise. Bearing a label that read "Stainbank v Beckett 1881", it contained a complete transcript of the second trial between the Foundry - this time in the person of founder Robert Stainbank - and Sir Edmund Beckett Denison. Initially, we thought we'd discovered a transcript of the original, Big Ben trial - a story which would make a good TV drama. Briefly, Denison had been responsible for commissioning Big Ben from the Foundry, going so far as to specify the alloy mix to be used in the casting and the size of hammer to be fitted. He was advised that the alloy mix was not the optimum and that the hammer he had specified was twice as heavy as was ideal. Convinced he knew best, he insisted on his specification being followed. As a consequence, within two months of being installed, the bell cracked. Not prepared to admit any error on his part, Denison befriended one of the Foundry's moulders, plied him with drink, and got him to bear false witness that it was poor casting, disguised with filler, that had caused the cracking. (A recent close examination of Big Ben failed to find a trace of filler, incidentally.) Denison rightly lost the subsequent court case but was obviously aggrieved at having done so as he continued to badmouth the Foundry. Twenty years later he was unwise enough to do so in print and this led to the libel trial whose transcript we rediscovered. And he lost that case, too.

While it's a shame we don't possess a transcript of the Big Ben trial (at least, none we've yet found) there is apparently a copy still extant at the Palace of Westminster. This may, however, be the only existing transcript of the later trial. That original, handwritten transcript will be lodged in the Foundry library after a typed record has been made.

One final point of interest is that the transcript mentions the lawyer for the Foundry using a small model to demonstrate the principles of bell-casting. This would almost certainly have been the same small, exquisitely crafted model currently on display in the Foundry's lobby museum area.

News Archive:
August 2002:
April 2002:
February 2002:
September 2001:
May 2001:
February 2001:
December 1999:
Casting the 9-11 Bell
Another Liberty Bell
A Big Wheel
Open Day 2001 (with photos)
Historic Finds at the Foundry
Open Day 2000 (with photos)
Masham and the Millennium


Index Page

Supported in Whitechapel by Wordpress London at Searched