Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

By MramoebaOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was where the great bell of Big Ben was cast, the Liberty Bell, and the bells of hundreds of Victorian churches and civic buildings, bells for carillons, and beautiful bells for thousands of hand-bell ringers.

Bells have been being made there for hundreds of years, since Shakespeare’s time. It has all its casting pits and lifting equipment in situ. It is an amazing piece of British London-based industrial archaeology, in active use until very recently.

A developer is planning to turn this extraordinary place into a “boutique hotel” which supposedly acknowledges the past, but in a highly ‘cleansed’ way that denies it any real connection to the work of creating bells.

BUT all is not lost! There is a much better plan for the site – to return it to working use, with fresh capital. But this can only happen if the hotel plan is rejected by the planners. Then the other scheme which keeps the functionality of the workshop has a real chance of success.

Please read the blog by the Gentle Author (link below), which explains everything, and – if you feel persuaded – do write to the Planners at Tower Hamlets to object the hotel idea. They should pay attention to the requirement for ‘optimum use’. The more objections, the better the chances the foundry will cast more bells.

Here is the blog, which has details of whom to address, and help with what to say. A brief email is all that is required.




MIRN – Response to Ivory Consultation

MIRN’s response to the UK Government’s consultation on banning the trade in ivory was submitted by email to the given address on 20 December 2017 and an official acknowledgement was received.  The two-page letter addressed several points:

  1. It made clear MIRN’s unequivocal support for any legislation that would be effective in ending the devastating illegal trade in ivory.
  2. It expressed strong support for the Option 2 solution outlined in the Government’s Consultation Document, which would allow an exemption for musical instruments.
  3. It made clear MIRN’s conviction that the continuation of sales of historic musical instruments which include, or in rarer cases are entirely made from, ivory contributes neither directly nor indirectly to ivory poaching today.
  4. It expressed MIRN’s support for a prohibition on the use of elephant ivory in modern instrument making.
  5. It made a case for the exemption for musical instruments to be the defining exemption rather than a restriction which relies on destructive testing or attempts to define complex and subjective qualities such as ‘historic’, ‘antique’ or ‘culturally significant’ by the facile and possibly unreliable assignment of a date.
  6. It requested clarification on what certification (p.15 Consultation document) would consist of for the sale of musical instruments which may contain ivory, such as pianos, violin bows and bagpipes.
  7. It suggested the establishment by Government of a licensed central repository of old and recycled ivory (such as might be obtained from the key coverings of discarded 19th-century pianos, or broken ivory flutes or other discarded non-musical items), where small amounts of ivory could be legally obtained by restorers and museum conservators for strictly prescribed purposes, thus discouraging the creation of a ‘black market’ for ivory.
  8. It asked that the defining qualification for musical instruments should be ‘musical instruments’ and not a ‘de minimis’ exemption, since there is an important minority of musical instruments that are fashioned mostly or wholly of ivory.
  9. MIRN expressed its appreciation for the opportunity to present our views and the Chair offered to meet with any DEFRA/Government representative(s) should they wish to discuss further any points in the letter.
  10. In closing, MIRN stated its concern that any new legislation provide a fair, effective and long-lasting framework that would safeguard both the future of elephants, and the material objects that trace human beings’ ancient relationship with them.

Any MIRN member who wishes to view a copy of the letter should apply to stating that they agree not to circulate it in print or online.



Wanted: Information on Parisian Harmonium Maker V. Mauprety

MIRN member, Paulo Santiago, writes to ask whether anyone can supply any further information about the maker and model of his harmonium inscribed: V. Mauprety – pianos and orgues – Paris.  So far, we know that Vincent-Joseph Mauprety traded from several different addresses in Paris between c.1870 and 1888, and a contemporary listing from the Annuaire-almanach du commerce, de l’industrie… of 1871 can be viewed at . The other information that has been gained about him comes from this online site . Mauprety is not mentioned in Gellerman’s International Reed Organ Atlas (2nd edition)(Lanham, MD, USA, 1998) nor in Arthur WJG Ord-Hume’s book Harmonium: the History of the Reed Organ and its Makers (London, 1986).

Medallion showing inscription on Harmonium by Mauprety, Paris.
Overall view of harmonium by V Mauprety, Paris

UK Government Consultation on Banning Sales of Ivory

The UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is beginning a consultation on banning sales of ivory. MIRN wishes to state its unconditional support for all reasonable measures that protect endangered species. Nevertheless, such a ban, if applied heavy-handedly, could have unintended consequences impacting on the trade, repair and restoration of historic musical instruments in this country. The Government has indicated that there could be certain exemptions introduced for musical instruments. You can read more about the Government’s proposals here  (scroll to the PDF documents right at the bottom of the page) and can also contribute your views through their survey or by writing to them at Please make your views known. At MIRN’s AGM (12th October) it was agreed that, following consultation with members, the Chair should submit a response to the consultation. Any member who wishes to contribute to MIRN’s response should write to the Chair via MIRN’s enquiries email by 1st December 2017.


Information wanted on Celesta maker

MIRN member, George Diehl, has asked for information on Cromwell, possibly a French celeste maker of the second half of the 19th century. He has an instrument with the name ‘Cromwell’ on the front board and the name and number ‘CAPRA 192’ stamped on the keyframe under the keys. Please post your replies to ‘’ .

Comments from Lewis Jones, 27 November 2018
I have not been able to trace a celesta maker called Cromwell in France, and the name does not sound especially French. References to celestas by Cromwell on the web would seem to point to North America. One by Cromwell was sold on eBay for US $2,999.99:
Unfortunately the photographs appear not to be archived.
looks twentieth rather than nineteenth-century, as also does that at Mulholland Music, Chatsworth, California, a studio ‘built in the ’60’s as a quiet, private music space to foster creativity’:
   An example at Bienen School of Music, Evanston, Illinois, is apparently regarded there as a second instrument, for rehearsal only:
   It is noteworthy that these instruments are (or were) in North America. Might there perhaps be a connection with the twentieth-century New York music publisher (prominent in the 1940s and 50s) Cromwell Music Inc. (now C/O TRO ESSEX MUSIC GROUP, 266 West 37th St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10018)? See, for example,several entries in Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series (1968) [pdf via Google Books]
   Regarding the ‘CAPRA 192’ stamp: if one Capra was the maker of the keyboard, this might be the 192nd such example made. The irregularity with which the letters and numbers were stamped suggests the sequential use of separate cast stamps rather than a single, integrated tool. Thus it seems unlikely that ‘192’ indicates a date in the 1920s whose final figure was to be entered separately, in the manner of a printed violin label in which the final digit is added by hand.

Classification systems for musical instruments.

Broderip and Wilkinson (cropped)

Margaret Birley, Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman Museum writes:

There are many different classification systems for musical instruments. The classification system that is cited for musical instruments on the MIRN website is the Hornbostel Sachs system as revised by Jeremy Montagu and MIMO which is widely used by museums. However, the existence of other classification systems should be indicated. … I would suggest … Margaret Kartomi’s On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments (Chicago, 1990), which provides a wide-ranging overview of musical instrument classifications.