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All towns benefited by having a central, easily seen time-piece. In many towns, this was located in the tower of the parish church - but in Hungerford, the parish church lies well away from the main street, in The Croft. In Hungerford, the town clock (and before it the sundial) was on the Town Hall.
- The 1607 Town Hall in 1769 showing the clock on the north gable
- The 1786 Town Hall, from a painting by G. Shepherd, 1821
- The 1786 Town Hall, with its original cupola, c1861
- The 1786 Town Hall, with its new clock-tower incorporating Mr Hall's clock, c1862
- The 1786 Town Hall, with its empty clock tower, with the new 1871 Town Hall beyond, housing Mr Hall's clock.
Records of the town clock in Hungerford:
The responsibility for clocks and sun dials fell to the Constable, and records of payments made for work maintaining them therefore appear in the Constables' Accounts. Follow this link to see the transcription of the Constables' Accounts (Town Clock extracts) 1658-1759.
These show that the people responsible for the maintenance of the Town Clock appear to have been:
- 1658-1676: Nicholas May of Inkpen
- 1677-1684: Richard May of Inkpen
- 1685-1692: John Tubb
- 1693: Zachary Turton
- 1694–1698: Zachary Turton and Mr Holloway
- 1699-1701: Zachary Turton
- 1701-1745: John Tubb "the Cutler" (died c1746)
- 1746-1749: William Tubb
- 1750-1762: Jonathan Bird (Bellman 1718-1768)
- 1763–c1779: Edward Woodham (clockmaker of 1 High Street)
- c1779-1789: James Woodham (son of Edward Woodham)
The amount paid per year for winding the clock and general maintenance appears to have been:
1658: 1s 0d
1659: 1s 6d
1665: 2s 6d
1677: 3s 0d
1683: 5s 0d
1685: 7s 0d
1687: 10s 0d
1698: 15s 0d
1710: £1 5s 0d
1716: £1 6s 0d
1722: £1 10s 0d
1762: £2 0s 0d
The expense of the clock varied each year depending on what work was required. It seems the bell rope needed frequent replacement.
Jim Davis noted that there is a reference to a Town Hall Clock in 1573 and again in 1598, when it was described as but "meanly repaired".
In 1687 a new clock was installed in the Clock House in the north gable of the Town Hall. A bargain was made whereby a new clock was bought from John Holloway who part-exchanged the old clock for the sum of £10. John Tubb, an ancestor of Robin Tubb, laterly Bellman and Town Crier, received 10s 6d for "keeping the old clock" - an ambiguous entry. John Holloway entered into a bond for keeping the new clock in repair. John Tubb kept his job as clockwinder.
Nevertheless, it seems that there was still a place for the town sun dial, as the Constables' Accounts for 1708 Mr Hawkins was paid 5s "for mending the sun diall", with a further 1s 6d paid to "poore men who wase assisting in itt".
In the same year Mr John Butler was paid 8d for "hingis for the clocke dore".
Mr John Tubb was the usual keeper of the clock, but there were some periods when Mr Cutler performed this task. Others who assisted by supplying spares and equipment for the clock included Adam Betteridge "for the clock line", and Mr Woodroffe for "Wire for the clock".
Mr Hall's new clock, 1862:
In June 1862, Mr. Hall, the Magistrate's Clerk, gave to the town a grand new clock. Mr Hall was a solicitor who lived in a house on the west side of the lower High Street. He retired c1861, and his house was demolished to make way for the building of the first railway bridge across the High Street in 1862.
When the clock was restored in 1965-1966, the engineere reported that the date of manufacture was stamped on the clock as 1866.
To accommodate Mr Hall's new clock, a new clock-tower was built on the existing Town Hall. The clock had three faces, there being no benefit from a west-facing dial, given the close proximity to the adjacent buildings.
Perhaps this bulky clock tower resulted in damage to the 1786 building - because within a few years it was decided to build a completely new Town Hall and Corn Exchange, which was completed in 1871. (See also Town Halls)
The new clock-tower was much higher, and the fourth, west-facing dial was added for the benefit of those people living along Church Street and the west of the town. The left face was therefore slightly different to the other three. All had cast-iron numerals and decoration.
Silencing the chimes at night:
Local people were used to the sound of the bells striking through the day and night, but some visitors to the Three Swans Hotel on the other side of the market place often complained of disturbed sleep by the quarter-hour chimes through the night. Ernest Clements, a clock and watchmaker at 1 Bridge Street, made a device that silenced the chimes for 7 hours in each 24 hours. Unless everything was correctly adjusted, however, the period of silence was not always at night!
Hungerford Town Hall Clock Again:
April 1946: "Many years ago there was a controversy in Hungerford over the striking of the hours during the night of the Town Hall clock. It was said to disturb the slumbers of fishermen staying at the Three Swans opposite. On Monday, the clock even silenced his majesty the law. Hungerford County Court was in session in the building, and as the clock commenced to strike twelve, a witness giving evidence could not be heard. His Honour Judge Kirkhouse Jenkins suggested tto the examining advocate that he should withold his questions until the chiming ceased. The clock struck very slowly, or so it seemed, and the Court waited patiently. When the echo of the last chime had died away, His Honour raised a smile in the Court by rejoining "The longest twelve I have ever known."
It is said that during the Second World War, a member of the Home Guard took a shot at the eastern clock face when on an exercise near the railway station. Two faces were renewed in the 1950s as the glass and cast-iron frames had begun to fracture. The south face was made of opaque plastic, and let little light through.
The clock mechanism included a wooden-shafted pendulum, whose length gave it a two-second movement. There were three weights, which needed to be lifted each week - on a full wind it would run for nine days.
The NWN in 1965/1966 reported "When work started on the restoration of the four faces of Hungerford Town Hall clock last week the southern face was found to be in far worse condition than anticipated and will require a complete new dial. The engineer found that all four faces were different, and in the southern dial the numerals and minutes were made of glass, something he has never encountered in a clock before. Hungerford's clock was made in 1866, dated in the mechanism, and is in excellent condition, says the engineer. A specialist firm from Leeds are carrying out the restoration work. Townspeople contributed £200 to pay for the cost."
Dave Levy kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Jan 2017) to add: "Mr Ted Levy, my father, took over the winding and maintenance of the mechanism somewhere around 1960. He took on quite a badly maintained clock from what I remember him telling us. However in 1967 my father asked if I could just wind the clock he would continue to maintain it, this continued until I moved away in 1971. My father then asked Robin Tubb if he could take over the winding, which he did, not sure about the maintenance."
Automatic winding installed, 1999:
This weekly winding of the clock was carried out by the Bellman Robin Tubb until 1999. However, when mobile phone transmitters were placed in the tower, there were anxieties about spending time in very close proximity to the transmitters. An automatic winding mechanism, incorporating three electric motors, was installed. This did not relieve Robin of the need to access the tower, as time adjustments still had to be made manually.
At the same time, it was necessary to replace the old cast-iron faces with acrylic ones (to allow the microwave transmissions through). It is said that the east face had a neat little hole faithfully put in the same position as in the original - although the Administrator is unable to see it in 2010! The numerals and hands are made of glass fibre. The redundant parts of the old dials are safely stored.
Electric movement installed, 2009:
In 2009 a new addition was made to the Victorian clock. In place of the pendulum regulating the clock, an electric motor, drives the old clock mechanism, and has removed the need for regular adjustment. It even handles the spring and autumn time changes of British Summer Time. (With thanks to Robin Tubb, Bellman, and Trustee of the Town & Manor of Hungerford.)