Quirky press release

Restoration nears completion – August 2002

BRIGHTON’s historic

Jubilee Clock Tower is to

receive its newly

restored mast and rising

ball mechanism this

Monday, 2 September.

The delicate operation

involves lifting the new

bronze mast, complete

with a gilded copper ball

weighing 100 kilos, to

the top of the tower and

securing it in place. To

ensure safety the work

will be carried out

between 00.30am and

6.30am on Monday morning.

All the roads around the

Clock Tower will be

closed to traffic, and

pedestrians will also be

prevented from entering

the immediate area.

Councillor Chris Morley,

chair of the environment

committee, said: “This

will be an historic

moment. The Clock Tower,

built in 1888 to

commemorate Queen

Victoria’s Jubilee the

previous year, has not

been fully operational

for 100 years, so it

entirely fitting that we

are bringing it back to

full working order

during Queen Elizabeth’s

Golden Jubilee this


The rising and falling

ball was originally

stopped in 1902 as the

noise was said to be

“frightening the horses.”

Once operational the ball

will rise up and down the

mast, hourly, in

synchronisation with the

hands of the clock.

Following installation of

the mast and ball the

scaffolding will remain

in place while the

finishing touches are

added. These include

painting and additional

gilding work to the

scales at the top of the

tower, in accordance with

the original appearance,

further cleaning, and

reinstatement of the

refurbished clock hands.

Weather permitting, these

works are expected to be

completed by the end of

September, but fine

weather is essential to

carry out the additional


The total cost of the

completed project will be

in the region of

£100,000, and includes

contributions from Boots

and The Regency Society.

The works on Monday

morning are being carried

out by Lifting Gear

Engineering, of Erith.

Comments about this page

  • I wonder if you have any further information regarding the craftsmen who built the Clock Tower. Family rumour has it that either my great-great grandfather or my great grandfather, or both, who were both carpenters and joiners were involved. They were both called George Dodman. Would there be any records anywhere that I could consult?

    By Mrs Chris Glover (01/01/1900)
  • The clock tower was presented to Brighton by my great great grandfather James Willing junior, not John Willing. Presumably there are some records of the presenting of the clock at the time which gave his correct name. He is buried at Hampstead Heath cemetery. Several of his great great grandchildren still survive.

    By Willow Jill Bassett (19/07/2003)
  • When researching the clock tower, I discovered that you did not include what the tower was made of eg. granite. I feel that the material of the building should be included in your brief history.

    By Libby Beckett (31/10/2005)
  • My sister Linda and I are also great-great-grandchilden of James Willing. We have the original photograph and commemorative coin presented to James Willing on completion of the clock.

    By Janette Willing (09/08/2006)
  • According to the Brighton and County Magazine (December 1891), the time-ball mechanism was designed by Magnus Volk and was controlled by a landline from the Greenwich Observatory, over 35 years before a similar arrangement was introduced to generate the BBC time signal.

    By David Fisher (03/12/2006)
  • Very pleased to see that someone has been researching the history of the Jubilee clock tower, which of course was designed by Magnus Volk, the celebrated inventor. I have researched Southampton’s time ball, which was located on top of South Castle in January 1888 then moved to South Western House in Canute Road in 1904 and removed in 1933. Both the Southampton and Brighton mechanisms used water to lift the ball, so I wondered if Magnus Volk or Blount Thomas in Southampton used the same design. There is a long article in the Brighton Gazette & Sussex Telegraph, Saturday, June 30, 1888, p5, describing the magnificent opening ceremony when James Willing and the Mayor had to fight through large crowds to reach the tower. The ball dropped at precisely 1 pm but Willing had to pull the drapery down by hand to reveal the tower as it got stuck.

    If someone has Mr Hawkins’ photograph of the opening ceremony I would like to use this in my book.

    Incidentally this is the only time ball opening ceremony I have found where there was a celebratory perfume “The Jubilee Clock Tower Bouquet”.

    Well done Brighton!

    By Paul Fuller (10/02/2018)

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