Clock Tower

Photo:The Clock Tower, Queens Road

The Clock Tower, Queens Road

The mechanism

By Nigel McMillan, architect

The contrast between the modern aesthetic and the Victorian folly is striking. The ball at the top of the Clock Tower used to rise to the top of the pole and then come crashing down on the stroke of the hour. The mechanism was disabled because the vibrations were destroying the structure.

Image and text from the 'My Brighton' exhibit
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page

So much of Brighton has changed since my family moved away in the late 1940s, but the Clock Tower is the same. Ah well, that's life and progess, I suppose. But no one can take my memories away.

By John C Sharratt (04/03/2003)
Congratulations, a very interesting website. I do have a query which I hope you can answer. Am I wrong in thinking that after the recent refurbishment of the Clock Tower, the ball mechanism was repaired and for a while the ball did rise and fall again ? I would also be interested in your views about the new building that will overshadow another of Brightons charms.
By Malcolm Macdonald (17/05/2004)
In reply to Malcolm MacDonald's question. Yes the ball on the top of the clock does now rise and fall on the hour. The best place to see this happening is from the top floor of the Waterstone's book store, as the windows of the computing section look directly onto the clock, and have handy window seats for you to use whilst you are waiting.
By Arron Freeman (14/03/2006)
I would like to know what stood on the site of the Clock Tower?
By Denise Crilly (10/04/2006)

What does the clock tower stand on the site of?

By Cathy Forster (01/05/2006)
I am not sure what was on the site before, but there is an old public toilet underneath, and a police box located on the other side. The slip road is now filled in, however the traffic lights are still in place.
By Liam (04/05/2006)

I work on the top floor of 132 Queens Road, an office block, and to update everyone on the ball situation, it does rise and fall but it seems to do it randomly when it feels like it.

By Tamzin Rasanen (06/11/2006)

I work on the 3rd floor of 15 Queen's Square. I can see the ball from the balcony - it does appear to rise and fall randomly and I now keep a log to record all golden ball activity.

By Helen Ward (15/01/2007)

I have been watching the ball consistently since my last entry. Noting its movement, geographic position and approx pivotational adjustments each half hour. The findings are most exciting! If any one else is interested please let me know and I will post details of any new intriguing developments as they happen! Eyes peeled gang!

By Helen Ward (17/01/2007)

I work in Brighton too, also near Queens Square, and am very interested in meeting and discussing the golden ball topic. A coffee maybe?

By Chris Peters (07/02/2007)

At precisely 3pm today a colleague and I had the amazing experience of watching the golden ball rise and fall. My theory is that it rises on every third hour e.g 12, 3, 6 and 9. Is this the case?

By Helen Ward (29/03/2007)

Actually I think you'll find it rises and falls at 2 and a half hour intervals. I discovered this by spending a whole day in a nearby coffee shop admiring the structure. I kept a diary of movements for approximately 12 hours inside the coffee shop and then sitting on a bench close by for an additional 6 hours...

By Chris Peters (30/03/2007)

I myself enjoy the local history and take particular interest in the Brighton Clock Tower. I believe my grandfather, Lord Hubert Gilespe-Smyth, was a pioneer in the clock work mechanics in the same era as the Brighton Clock Tower. After reading his journals it would appear that this particular design (The Jessop Pull crank) was intended to make the ball rise on the hour. Although after recently observing the ball it rarely rises at all let alone on the hour. I can only assume this is due to some neglect with maintenance over the years.

By Kimberley James (01/04/2007)

I've have been reading up on the Jessop Pull Crank, after seeing kimberley's thoroughly fascinating comments. Apparently the 'Pull' part of the title refers to the gravitational pull of the moon. The genius design of the crank includes a small moondial that monitors the moons gravitational position eg Spring moon, full moon, new moon etc, which in turn sends various signals to the crank that makes the ball rise and fall. I am yet to figure out exactly what the signal tells the crank as it still seems to rise at odd times but I'm sure the moon has something to do with it! Keep digging guys!!

By Chris Peters (03/04/2007)

Yesterday I was on my 3 o'clock watch when a seagull landed on the ball. You can imagine my delight when the ball started to move shocking the poor bird half to death. This can only confirm my theory that the ball rises on every third hour. I have started painting a water colour of the ball where it meets the skyline. I shall be sending it to this website once finished. With any luck they will post for me so you can all enjoy. Watch this space!

By Helen Ward (03/04/2007)

The editorial team have been following your ongoing Clock Tower watch with interest. And of course Helen we will be most happy to publish your artwork when it is ready.

By Jennifer (Editorial Team) (03/04/2007)

I would definitely be interested in seeing Helen's artwork. I am also a choreographer and would relish the chance to create a new dance work based on the ball itself, combined with the artwork in question. Perhaps we could collaborate? The structure of the tower and ball would lend itself well to a ballet piece I have been working on!

By Chris Peters (04/04/2007)

Since my last messege I have commenced and discarded 4 paintings of the golden ball clock tower. I don't seem to be able to capture its golden luninance and aura. As Mr Peters seems very interested in my work, I don't want to disappoint. If there are any artists out there with any tips I'd be grateful (as I am currently only sleeping 4 hours a night while I try to complete my work). Not long now guys!

By Helen Ward (19/04/2007)

Pardon my possible stupidity but are you Chris Peters as in the Chris Peters that choreographed the piece "Loving the day, it's gay in May" (a stunning visual movement piece derived from the effect of spring on the human psyche)? This was truly a masterpiece. I am a huge fan, would be so excited to see another of your works!

By Kimberley James (19/04/2007)

As the husband of an interpretive dance teacher, I too would be interested in seeing this movement. I met my wife at a "Rainbow Rhythms" class on The Level 30 years ago, and we had our first date by the Clock Tower. We loved it so much that we moved to a small flat with a view of the Tower, a tall, golden symbol of our love for each other. But 20 years of the noise of that blasted ball crashing down was too much and we spearheaded the campaign to stop the mechanism. She left me shortly after. I still have the flat, but live on my own with my cat, Marcus, I even miss the sound of the ball crashing down and wish to start a new campaign. Would anyone be interested?

By Andrew Howell (21/04/2007)

Dear Andrew, I was deeply hurt to see your comments about 'spearheading a campaign to stop the mechanism'. My grandfather worked for years designing the 'Jessop Pull' (also known as 'Jessie' to my grandfather's close friends and family). It has brought many a joyful moment to all, myself included! But thankfully you have come to your senses now and are back on the golden wagon so to speak!  I am definitely intereseted in starting a new campaign. We clearly have more than enough talent on-line here (artists, choreographers, etc) to re-start the motion with a bang! Come on guys and gals, let's go for gold!

By Kimberley James (23/04/2007)

After careful reading, much thought and many hours of deep meditation, I have finally found my inner power and confidence to respond to what can only be described as a passionate and creative posting on one of the most prestigious landmarks within the city of Brighton and Hove. John C Sharratt, I agree memories are ours till the end. What we choose to remember and forget is what makes us the people we are. However always remember to look forward in life or you'll find yourself missing what the future holds. Chris Peter's you have exceptional will power to stay and record the positioning of the globe throughout the day. However, it does not surprise me one bit as you through your work have done great things for men like us, and Brighton is certainly now the Gay capital of the world! Hats off to you sir. Lord Hubert Gillepe-Smyth, I have to say I have not heard of, however, Kimberley James your tale of him being a pioneer with clock mechanics and to have you, a direct descendant, involved within this discussion I can only bow down and hope you can tell us more tales of what you find within his journals, maybe anything to do with him working in Brighton? Helen Ward, in my deep meditation I have envisioned your work in progress as a joy of mature depiction by the thought that aesthetic competence is an ongoing adventure! I have no doubt you will finish your creation will be one of great beauty. Kinberley James, I agree that I was first shocked to see there was a campaign to stop the ball, and horrified to see the man spearheading the campaign had the mordacity to comment. My pain soon passed to hear Andy Howell has seen the error of his ways and now has a cat called Marcus. I look forward to the future of this discussion and the future of all our lives.

By Ginera Avidd (08/05/2007)

Dear Dearest friend and fellow golden ball enthusiast Ginera Avidd, I am to welcome you unto the golden ball flock! I have actually reached a turning point within my art work of the ball, having steered away from the watercolours I originally began with, I have taken to using the medium of collage, collecting scraps of authentic brighton litter and turning them into a work of what I hope people will enjoy. I shall soon be ready to unveil my work. I hope people understand the fantastic good feeling I have acquired from turning 'street rubbish' into a work of something quite special. All that is missing is the golden foil I require for the ball itself, but I plan to widen my search to Hove and maybe even Shoreham in my quest for the perfect shade! Wish me luck!

By Helen Ward (10/05/2007)

I am sorry for the late reply, I can only use the internet once a week when my son Marcus comes down from Watford to take me to the shops. I'd like to say that I am very sorry about getting the ball stopped, I have had enough regrets in my day but this is the worst. Now I am in my twilight years I would like to amend this. We should discuss this in person, some of you are invited to my humble flat for tea and a chat.

By Andrew Howell (11/05/2007)

Oh Helen, the idea of using litter from around the Brighton area for your collage is truely inspried. I think the people of Brighton pride themselves on their eco-friendly, green attitudes, and I personally believe that this gesture embodies all that is good about our humble little town. With regards to the difficulties you are having finding the perfect golden shade for the actual ball, I believe you'll want to keep an eye out for the inner sleeves of a 'Galaxy' chocolate bar wrapper, as I envisage the golden hue will match perfectly, just like the evening sunset bouncing off the ball as it rises and falls at 6pm.

By Kimberley James (11/05/2007)

While being taken out to buy a book by Marcus, I was fortunate to be in the top of Waterstones at 2pm to see the ball rise and fall. It was truly majestic.

By Andrew Howell (22/05/2007)

Exciting news all! I have found a multitude of wrappers all suitable for the ball itself, but now the tricky choice of which one gets the honour of being the ball itself and which gets to be the cheeky glint of sunlight across the side? Decision time! I am tempted to hold a meet and greet to ask your help in choosing? I can bring samples and perhaps you can all bring nibbles? Pretzels, Sausage rolls or something a little more exotic... scotch eggs perhaps?

By Helen Ward (29/05/2007)

Sad, sad news my friends. I had almost finished my artwork but it has been the victim of vandalism. I left the work unattended within my studio, went out for my evening ladies Cha Cha Cha class and upon my return found the canvas on the floor, covered in scratches and go cat. My neighbours have advised they heard scratching and mewing and we are all convinced that this is sabotage from a rival golden ball artist who has trained his feline sidekick to destroy better art work. I am sad and frankly shocked.

By Helen Ward (27/07/2007)

Helen - this is scandalous!! Only the other day I was speaking with some London friends and telling them of how Brighton is such a wonderful and peaceful place! Then I hear of your misfortune and begin to realise that Brighton has changed.  It now has such evil creatures that could do such damage. Andrew, you said you have a cat - and you have tried to hurt this wonderful centre piece of Brighton before.. that is all I am saying!  Kimberley have you had a chance for further reading of Lord Hubert Gillepe-Smyth journals? I would love to learn more of his tales.  We must arrange a meet. The Bank holiday weekend? On the 25th Aug 2007, I shall be throwing a party for mine and a dear friend's birthday. I would love it if you would all attend. If you are interested please post back and I will give more details.

By Ginera Avidd (02/08/2007)

Oh Ginera and fellow watchers, I have indeed been reading my grandfather's journals and it has only brought me despair. As night after night I was studying the genius within the literature only to discover a tale of torment and to my despair the grave sadness surrounding the departure of my dear grandfather. His documentation of his works soon turned into a log, or diary even. As he aged he stopped documenting his calculations and scientific findings and started commenting on his thoughts towards his ongoing struggle to fathom new ideas and stay ahead of the new younger inventors. He could not compete with their snappy thoughts and fresh 'outside the box' thinking. There is a mention of a creation he had called 'project 9' which I believe closely relates to the Jessop pull crank but I am having trouble finding it in the archives. Anyway, to continue the story, he was crippled with arthritis at the age of 67 and that is where he lost the last of his get up and go. He sadly died aged 70. So may I take this opportunity for us all to thank the great man that made the Brighton clock tower the great signature of Brighton that it is today. And please may we keep his soul alive by continuing this discussion of the Clock Tower that we currently have going. Thank you.

By Kimberly James (03/08/2007)

Dear Mr Avidd, are you a Mr? I think only a Mr would use an internet forum of all things to pick on a helpless old man and his poor cat. I have tried to make ammends for my earlier clock tower mistakes and I would appriciate it if we could all just get along and keep this as civil as possible. With regards to the movement to start the crank again, I have met with a group of people who specialise in such things. They are called the Brighton Freewill Movement and despite my initial opinions that they were unwashed layabouts, they are actually very well versed in petitioning the council and have offered to help us. I had a meeting with their leader, a nice young man by the name of Lake, who took me along to a protest about a new landfill in Brighton and I must say they know what they are doing. I will let you know what Lake and myself decide, although you are all welcome to come to our next meeting. Please reply on here though as I don't really know how to do emails. Many thanks.

By Andrew Howell (14/08/2007)

Andrew, you are right, I apologise. I was just curious as to why you had not responded for such a long period of time. To reconcile I would like to further re-iterate my invitation for a collective meet the evening of Saturday 25th Aug 2007 19:00 - 20:00, I shall be in the Mash Tunn with several of my Art Collectors club members. Helen there are several key individuals I would be very keen to introduce you to. Kimberly I would love to discuss further about Jessop pull crank and project 9.

By Ginera Avidd (16/08/2007)

Greetings my fellow clock tower enthusiasts, I have returned. I would like to apologise for the delay in my adding to our wonderful conversation, I have been unforseeably and unexpectidly engaged. I won't bore you with the details but it involved a kibbutz and a talking peacock. I consider this to be my recovery period after discovering that my precious artwork had been maliciously destroyed. After a number of hours of therapy I am able to talk about it again, hence my return. I am sorry to see that I missed the meet and greet, although by Mr Mould's comment the numbers may have been a bit thin on the ground. Either that or he could not recognise the group. I would imagine that such a merry party would have been easy to spot. May I suggest that next time we meet (and I fully intend to be there), we could all wear a season flower in our lapels in order that we be easily identified. Perhaps a poppy, or any other suggestion?

By Helen Ward (09/09/2007)

A poem about the ball from my 1st published work "Brighton in words, yet without words". Available on Amazon. "Oh Golden Ball, you rise and fall,
You make believers of us all. In different climates you're hot or cool, You'll make fools of us all."
Feedback please.

By Stephen T Johnsonn (25/09/2008)

Well, May I just say that I am so extremely pleased that someone has finally added their input to our oh so humble page. I have been checking this comments forum page, bi-weekly for the past year, and am overjoyed to have discovered another 'golden ball' enthusiast. I thought we were a dying breed. To Mr S T Johnson, I can only say that I find your words mesmerising and truly inspiring. I feel it is a shame that you missed the informal Golden balls appreciation meeting this time last year. I believe you would have enjoyed it, and we could have discussed our various art forms. (I work mainly in collage comprised from street rubbish/litter etc although recently I have been considering moving into the medium or Mime? Thoughts please) Anyway, hope to hear from people soon. Hopefully we can revive some interest on this site!! Cheerio!!

By Helen Ward (02/10/2008)

Having read all the above comments I have come to the conclusion that the Brighton sea air must have got to some of you. I cannot believe that people would make such ridiculous comments relating to what is a beautiful monument.

By F Hine (17/10/2008)

Just found this and had to comment. GREAT. I shall be checking this out myself. I found myself chuckling about the cat. Keep it up - very entertaining.

By Jennifer Tonks (nee Smith) (17/10/2008)

F Hine. Does this mean I can count you out of the Ballet I've been working on since last April?

I'm looking for people to join in this wonderful event and have applied to the council for a grant to help me stage this on the anniversary of the Clock Tower's completion.

By Chris Peters (20/10/2008)

It is great to see that much like the golden ball this conversation has risen from almost nowhere and is once again a hot topic. From this study of the ball and the appreciation meet up, many of us have been blessed with new friendships and new knowledge, and that is a tribute to just how sensational and powerful the Clock Tower and golden ball are. Kimberly have you discovered anymore about 'project 9'? Stephen your words are inspirational and I look forward to hearing more. Jennifer I agree now we can look back and chuckle about the cat, however Helen still suffers from night terrors.

By Ginera Avidd (20/10/2008)

I work on the top floor of 132 Queens Road and today [10th Nov 2009] at 4pm I saw the golden ball falling for the first time! I've been living here in Brighton for over 5 years but I had no idea it could move. It was great finding this page, seeing lots of people working nearby are interested in the bizarre building! Has anyone figured out the actual pattern?

By Igor Lungo (11/11/2009)

Hi. It's been a while, I'm sorry, I've been busy with work and cleaning. Not an acceptable excuse I know but have had to get a job in a naff call centre to pay for the art materials for my latest golden ball art piece. I've decided to give it a Christmas theme and I'm hoping it will be ready in time to be unveiled on Xmas Eve. So would anyone be interested in a spot of art, some eggnog and perhaps even Iceland canapes (damn it - cannot resist Mr Donovan in that advert!)?  Please let me know if anyones up for it as not sure how many mini canapes or frozen prawn garlands to buy. Thanks all.

By Helen Ward (10/12/2009)

Hello everyone, I was just reminiscing over jobs I have been involved with and I found this website with regards to the clock tower. I was responsible for the design of the mechanism during the refurbishment of the clock tower. I hope it still works? I have some drawings somewhere, if people are interested in the workings. I will have to look into the Jessop pull crank mechanism as I wasn't given a great deal of information on the original other than it used water hydraulics and the noise scared the horses.

By Terry Coombs (16/07/2010)

Hello all, I am 16 years old and a brand new member to this website and I am so pleased to have found it! I have been mesmerized by the random intervals at which the great golden ball dips and rises. I live in the Brighton area near to Queen's Road and have visited the clock tower on a daily basis, usually up to 5 times a day just to watch it operate its wonderful mechanism. Needless to say, I have been expelled from schools for truancy but it hasn't stopped me - clocks are my passion. I would very much like to have a gathering in the next few weeks over some tea and biscuits where we can discuss the clocks magical operation!

By Montgomery Bertram Chesterton (25/08/2010)

This is clearly the thread that won't die. I lived for several years in Gloucester Road in the North Laine, and as an engineer and artist found the timeball fascinating. I also lived in Melbourne, Australia for a time, and in the seaside town of Williamstown there is a tower by the sea which also sports an almost identical timeball. It, too was restored, although the ball is a humble black. There has to be a family connection.

By Norman Withers (26/09/2010)

I too have an interest in timeballs and am wondering if anyone knows whether the Brighton timeball still operates, even if a bit erratically?

By Mervyn Huggett (03/04/2014)

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