What is the connection between the Naze and Big Ben?
Well it’s rather tenuous but I’ll explain.
The London brass and bell founders business, John Warner & Sons of Cheapside and Cripplegate, London was begun in 1739 and remained under the same family ownership for more than 200 years.
It was John Warner who built Walton’s East Terrace in 1835-36. The Terrace, a row of seven houses including a coach house and stables at the rear. John’s own house with its Greek Doric style porch was at number one. He also built, at his own expense, the sea defence walls and three breakwaters. One opposite the EastTerrace, one at The Albion and one opposite the Bath House which no longer there.
At their foundry in Norton near Stockton-on-Tees in 1856 John Warner & Sons were chosen to cast the Great Bell (Big Ben) for the clock tower in the Houses of Parliament . As the tower was still under construction the bell was transported to London and hung in New Palace Yard, where it was tested each day until 17th October 1857 when it was found to have a large crack appearing in it and it had to be scrapped. Another foundry was then appointed to cast a new bell which we still hear announcing the time across London. You can read the full story of this event here
When John Warner died his business and estate passed to his son Robert and it was he who opened the Naze foundry in 1873, as a branch of the London business of John Warner & Sons. In 1891 the London business was sold leaving the Naze business to continue until Robert’s death in 1896 when it was run by his trustees until they sold it in 1907 to Robert Warner & Co. (Engineers) Ltd.
A workforce of between 150 and 200 employees manufactured pumping machinery, steam engines, turbines and machinery for rubber plantations. Pumps were exported to South Africa for use in the diamond and coal mines
The blacksmith’s shop in 1891 showing 8 forges and the steam hammer on the right
To accomodate staff, Robert built Broomfield Cottages in Hall Lane with a social centre for the workers at the end of the row. This was originally known as Crescent Hall, named after Warner’s Crescent Foundry in Cripplegate, London. It was converted in 1925 into the Baptist Church which it still is today.
During WWI the foundry was one of only a few local engineering businesses to be converted to the war effort manufacturing munitions. But after 1921 production reduced considerably,
It was in 1944 that the Luton Based firm of W. J. Harmer Ltd. took over the foundry starting with a workforce of only six men all aged over 60. The business developed and by 1960 some 85 people were employed producing 150 tons of castings a month.
When I and my colleague David West photographed the men in June 1973 they were casting piano frames, as below. My abiding memory is one of heat and dirt. I’m guessing that the men were not highly paid, but they deserve to have been.
There are many more photos taken on this occasion in the Old Walton Archive, Naze Index
I am uncertain of when the foundry finally closed, but I’m sure someone will enlighten me
Don’t believe everything I write without checking it for yourself – I would hate to promulgate false information.