Tuesday 17 January 2012

The Clock Tower "time ball" rises again . . .

The gilded copper time ball was originally designed to rise up the mast as every hour approached and then, on a telegraph signal from Greenwich, drop down again as the hour was struck. It was turned off soon after the tower was inaugurated in 1888. Nearby residents had complained about the noise created by the wind whistling in the longitudinal slots up which the ball rose, and to cure the problem the slots were covered in.

During the Clock Tower's extensive renovation in 2002 attempts were made to re-activate the ball mechanism, and although it worked for a while problems soon arose. It would be interesting to know details of the endeavours that have finally been crowned with success. Someone surely deserves a medal for dogged persistence!

I don't know if they've cured the noise problem but a friend who lives  directly opposite isn't complaining so far. Maybe modern flats are better insulated or we have become accustomed to a higher level of background noise in which mere wind-whistling is lost.

The Clock Tower was commissioned by a local advertiser James Willing to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. It was designed by a London architect John Johnson and, although it has come in for much criticism in the past, even threats of demolition, the Brighton Pevsner now describes it as "supremely confident and showy". It is Grade II listed.


  1. What a great piece of good news. If there's a Diamond Jubilee medal being minted one should be reserved for the Clock Tower Ball.

  2. Excellent. In all the years I've lived in the area I've yet to see it work. Here's hoping...

  3. ..... and I believed the person who told me it was related to the tides going in and out! I'm pretty sure I saw it working just after the renovation.

  4. Managed to catch it's fall at 7 this evening as I was walking past. So pleased it still works :)


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