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British Industrial History

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John Warner and Sons

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Brass and Bell Founders of 8 Crescent, Cripplegate, London.

Operated from various locations including Cheapside, Cripplegate (#2 Jewin Crescent, commonly known as the Crescent Foundry), Spitalfields (Spelman Street) and Fleet Street. Other Warner foundries or works were at Tendring, Essex and at Stockton-on-Tees, where the original "Big Ben" was cast.

Warners' telegraphic address was "Big Ben, London" (that was in their catalogue for 1900 in spite of the fact that their original casting of that great bell was long before).

1739 The firm was begun and remained under continuous ownership by the same family for more than two centuries. They manufactured a wide variety of products including Deep Well Pumps, Warners' Beer Engines, and Fire-Engines.

1740 Jacob Warner, a Quaker, was ordered by the Founders Company to cease foundry work, on the grounds that he was only free of the Tin-plate Workers.

By 1763 Jacob's son, John Warner, was in business as a bell and brass founder at a house known as the 3 Bells and a Star, in Wood Street, Cheapside, where he was joined by Tomson Warner, his brother.

Later they moved to Fore Street, Cripplegate,

1782 The partnership was dissolved.

1784 Tomson remained in Fore Street, while John went to Fleet Street, where as John Warner & Sons he cast bells, sometimes putting his own name on them and sometimes that of the firm.

However, it was from Tomson Warner that the business descended to the modern firm of John Warner & Sons.

1788 Warner began making bells and continued to do so (with a hiatus between 1816 and 1850) until 1924.

1816 Ceased production of bells

1850 Resumed production of bells. Prior to 1850 they only cast bells in sand, and less than 18 inches, in diameter.

1851 The firm consisted of 3 (partners - presumably Robert, Charles and another); it employed 141 men, 1 woman and 13 boys[1]

1851 Award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

1856 Cast the Great Bell for the clock tower in the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben) at Norton near Stockton-On-Tees in the furnaces of Warner, Lucas and Barrett. It was transported by rail and sea to London.

The bell was hung in New Palace Yard. It was tested each day until 17 October 1857 when a 1.2m crack appeared. No-one would accept the blame. Theories included the composition of the bell's metal or its dimensions. Warners blamed Denison for insisting on increasing the hammer's weight from 355kg to 660kg. Warners asked too high a price to break up and recast the bell so George Mears at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry was appointed to cast the new bell.[2]

1860 Read about the "Big Ben" disaster at The Engineer 1860/01/06, page 11.

Robert Warner and Co erected a factory at Walton-on-the-Naze.

1870s Developed the Spitalfields site but also kept the Jewin Crescent address as their registered office.

1924 Bell production ended

WWII Both the Cripplegate site and the Spitalfields site were badly damaged - the land was cleared afterwards. All of Warners' bellfoundry records were also destroyed.

Their offices, at Jewin Crescent, Cripplegate, were moved to Spelman Street, Spitalfields.

1949 The company closed

Their total production of bells is unknown, but there are approximately 2550 surviving Warner bells that are hung primarily for change ringing, carrying dates from 1788 to 1921. There were other municipal bells as well as clock bells, some of which bear the clock-maker's name rather than the Warner name. There is also a number of chimes and clock-chimes made of hemispherical bells, and a few installations of tubular bells.


  • A 510 pp catalogue 'The New Century Catalogue' probably dating from ca.1910 is in the SMC Library

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1851 census
  2. The Great Bell - Big Ben [1]
  • Index of Warner bells [2]
  • [3] Church Bells