How to join the Forum

Welcome to MIRN Forum. This page hosts questions and discussions for members. To join for FREE, go the link on this page. After you have become a member, post your question or topic for discussion to . Make ‘FORUM’ the first word in the subject line. Your post should appear within a couple of days. If you have information or a comment that you wish to add or if you can answer a question, use the same link, after joining.

MIRN welcomes comments and feedback from all its members. Keep in touch and let MIRN know how it can better help you.


Whitechapel Bell Foundry: a public meeting on Monday 9 September

In just over a week, a petition to Tower Hamlets Council has reached its target of 2000 signatures of local residents and those who work or study in the Borough, which triggers a debate at the full council meeting on 18 September to make it Council policy to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a working foundry.

The East End Preservation Society and The East London Mosque are collaborating in organising a public meeting on MONDAY 9 SEPTEMBER at 6:30pm at the Mosque, 82-92 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1JQ. 

This will be a chance to hear from UK Historic Building Preservation Trust and Factum Foundation about their proposals for the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a working foundry.

Speakers include Dan Cruickshank (Historian & Local Resident), Unmesh Desai (London Assembly Member, City & East), Dilowar Khan (Director of East London Mosque), Adam Lowe (Director of Factum Foundation), Shahed Saleem (Survey of London) and Clare Wood (Director of UKHBPT). If you care about the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry come along to learn more. .



A Film About The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

There is an excellent new film by Gavin Kingcome, Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, here:

A Film About The Whitechapel Bell Foundry



Square pianoforte by J. Broadwood, London, 1789

The EARLY PIANO – FORTEPIANO INFORMATION SITE, formerly maintained by David Hunt, is now under new management and may be found at: http://
This is an information service for restorers, players, owners, amateurs, and researchers interested in pianos built before 1837, and similar historical instruments.
The main purpose of the website it to maintain and publish the Register of Extant Broadwood Grands, and information about research into other early piano makers. The site, which was last updated in January 2017, will be updated during 2019; more information about the future of the site will follow in due course. Many thanks are extended to David Hunt, who started the site and maintained it for several years.
Offers of, or requests for, information about Broadwood Grand pianos built before 1837 can be forwarded by email to: Please replace (at) by the @ symbol.


WoodMusICK conference, 17 – 18 October 2019

drying wood

With effect from 11 July this conference, which was planned to take place in Edinburgh 17-18 October 2019, is postponed, and the call for papers is withdrawn at this time.  The organisers would like to thank everyone for their interest and submissions to date; there will be a further announcement when the conference is relaunched.

You can see information about the WoodMusICK network and activities at and also follow on Facebook and Twitter

Posted on behalf of the organising committee of WoodMusICK 2019 in Edinburgh: Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, Dan Ridley-Ellis, Sebastian Kirsch.


The Whitechapel Bell Foundry: an update (10 March 2019)

The Bell of Hope in the 9_11 Memorial Garden, Manhattan
The Bell of Hope in the 9/11 Memorial Garden, Manhattan, was cast in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

More than 600 letters of objection to the ‘bell-themed boutique hotel’, proposed as the future use of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, have already been lodged with Tower Hamlets Council. Please send more: instructions on how to make your opinion count are here:

The Spitalfields Life blog, which continues to report on progress, has just published Pearl Binder At The Whitechapel Bell Foundry (10 March 2019), an account by artist and writer Pearl Binder (1904-1990). Binder came from Salford in the twenties to live in a hayloft in Whitechapel while studying at Central School of Art. In ODD JOBS (1935), a series of illustrated pen portraits, she published this account of a visit to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry:

This week the Association of Heritage Crafts designated bell founding as craft in critical danger of being lost forever in Britain.


Request for information about multiple numbering of Sebastian Erard harps

Inner face, stamped with the number 1955 and the letters S and H, of the pocket-piece of Sebastian Erard, pedal harp serial no. 2116, made in London in 1815. The wooden parts are consistently numbered 1955 while the public serial number, engraved on the neck plate, is 2116.

This extends to MIRN a request for information recently posted to a forum for harp and harp music research.

I’d like to propose that members of this community might contribute to a pool of multiple numbers on Sebastian Erard harps, made in London c.1796-1840, wherever at least one number other than the ‘official’ serial number (boldly engraved on the brass neck plate) is visible, with a view to collating as much information as can be gleaned in – initially, I suggest – a month, and sharing it.

Initial aims

The main aims would be:

  • To advance understanding of initial manufacturing practices;
  • To advance understanding of modification, reworking, and repair of harps by Erard during the period of continuing manufacture, whether documented in the ledgers or not;
  • To advance understanding of the subsequent repair and modification practices of others, including recombination of elements from more than one harp, especially but not necessarily where practitioners are identifiable, or the repair/modification/restoration history is documented or can be ascertained. (Some such information is anecdotal and difficult to verify.)

Underlying this proposal is an array of research questions to which answers are only beginning to emerge; and I feel certain that others, who have examined more such harps than I have or have thought about them more deeply, will have other questions with which information gathered might help.

The task

The minimum information to report would be: (1) the neck plate number PLUS (2) one other number, noting its location on the instrument. Additional numbers (3 et seq), if known, with their locations, would be particularly welcome. It would be helpful to know the location of the instrument but that might be withheld if confidential.

The most accessible site on the harp while it is strung, without use of special equipment or taking the instrument apart, is the underside of the neck, at the treble end where the wood is exposed:

Neck treble number 1955 H
Detail of the underside of the neck, stamped with the number 1955 and the letter H, of Sebastian Erard, pedal harp serial no. 2116, made in London in 1815. The wooden parts are consistently numbered 1955 while the public serial number, engraved on the neck plate of the harp, is 2116.

followed by the normally hidden surface(s) of the removable pocket-piece (AKA the ‘forgotten piece’), which is lodged at the junction of neck and pillar (see the title photo).

Other typical sites of stamped numbers, accessible only with endoscopy or after partial disassembly, include:

  • the inner face of a shutter
  • the lower end of the pillar
  • the edge of the pedal box walls.

Where there is no trace of a stamped number on the underside of the neck, a report confirming that (e.g. ‘Plate number 2xyz; wood of neck has no number’) is equally valuable.

If anyone who has access to an instrument would like to check, or has notes made while repairing/restoring/researching which they would be happy to share in this way, I would be pleased to collate, summarise, and post it. I would welcome questions and suggestions about this, but at this stage I have in mind a quick exercise, to see what can be gleaned, rather than a long-term research project.

Reports can either be submitted to the forum part of the website or emailed to

Thank you for considering this. Lewis Jones


Whitechapel Bell Foundry: an update (21 February 2019)

Whitechapel foundry east
Albert Turpin (1900-64), The Whitechapel Bell Foundry seen from the east

Since the publication for consultation of the planning application PA/19/00008/A1, the Spitalfields Life blog by the Gentle Author has published two further posts which afford illuminating and complementary views of the work, until 2017, of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and provide strong arguments – helpful for those who will object in writing to the building’s conversion into a ‘boutique hotel’ – for its continuance as a foundry:

‘Nigel Taylor, Tower Bell Production Manager’ (11 February 2019) is an interview with Nigel Taylor, who worked at the foundry for forty years, from 1976 until it closed in 2017, managing all aspects of making, casting and tuning bells for the last twenty years. He explains why the foundry closed and twenty-five jobs were lost. As adviser to the scheme, proposed by the UK Historic Building Preservation Trust and Factum Arte, to reopen the foundry, re-equipped for twenty-first century, he presents a strong case that the foundry can have a viable and sustainable future.

‘Benjamin Kipling, Bell Tuner’ (11 February 2019) is an interview with Benjamin Kipling, formerly Bell Tuner at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in which he gives a revealing account of the techniques used in bell tuning, both at Whitechapel and elsewhere.

From Big Ben to the Liberty Bell: the archives of Whitechapel Bell Foundry (Archives for London Seminar at the London Metropolitan Archives)

On Wednesday 23 January 2019, Archives for London presented an evening seminar in which Richard Wiltshire (Senior Archivist for Business Archives at the London Metropolitan Archives), who supervised the acquisition by the LMA of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry archive in 2017, together with two LMA colleagues, gave a detailed account of the process of transferring the foundry records to the archive, and of initial conservation and investigation. In preparation for the firm’s move, London Metropolitan Archives worked closely with the company to safeguard its rich business archives. The records are now safely deposited at LMA. A cataloguing project began on 19 November 2018 with the arrival of a dedicated project intern. Plans to provide access to the collection, the most recent parts of which will be subject to the approval of Alan & Kathryn Hughes, the last owners of the company, were outlined.



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.




The Early Pedal Harp (web site, blog, and forum)

Harp F Culine (cropped), an online multi-disciplinary research community of harpists, harp makers, conservators and restorers, historians, museum curators, musicologists, and organologists, was launched at the start of February 2019.  Conceived at the international workshop, ‘The Early Pedal Harp as a Museum Artefact’, hosted by the Deutsches Museum, Munich, on 29-30 November 2018, the web site aims to represent the current state of research into single- and double-action pedal harps (c1700-1840) and their immediate predecessors.  Contributions from Robert Adelson, Mike Baldwin, and Lewis Jones have appeared in the first couple of days. There is scope for audio recordings of music or even videos of performances and demonstrations to be posted.

All who are interested are invited to subscribe and contribute. It’s free to join:

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.