History Notes

Clock Tower 2006
Photo by Tony Mould
The Clock Tower, Date unknown: Engraving of the Clock Tower in North Street.
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
Sandbagged Clock Tower, c. 1940: The clock tower at the corner of North Street and Western Road with sandbags and advertisements for "Defence Bonds" - the slogan was "Lend to defend the right to be free".
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Brighton’s Jubilee Clock Tower, designed by John Johnson, was built in 1888 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee of the previous year. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Arthur Otway on 20 January 1888, the seventieth birthday of John Willing, a local advertising contractor whose gift to the town the Clock Tower was at a cost of £2,000. Despite being described as ‘worthless’ by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner {45}, the Brighton public has retained a nostalgic affection for the Clock Tower and it remains at what is probably the hub of modern Brighton despite proposals to remove it.

The tower stands 75 feet high on a red granite base with four seated female statuettes. Above are portraits of Queen Victoria; her late husband Prince Albert; her son Edward, Prince of Wales; and his wife Princess Alexandra. They are flanked by columns and topped by pediments with four projecting hulls giving directions to Hove, the sea, Kemp Town and the station. Above the 5-foot clock faces and cupola is a 16-foot mast, at the base of which lies a gilt-copper sphere. This was a time ball, designed by Magnus Volk and controlled by land-line from Greenwich Observatory, which rose hydraulically up the mast and fell on the hour, but it functioned for a few years only after complaints about the noise. An excellent model of the Clock Tower may be found in Brighton Museum.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: {3,189}

Comments about this page

  • Thank goodness the Clock Tower wasn’t removed – it’s architectural ‘white elephants’ such as this that give places like Brighton their character. What next – the Pavilion?  My main memory of the Clock Tower is as a conductor on BH&D buses in 1968 when a number of services ran from Brighton Station into Western Road via North Street Quadrant, before the former was made one-way and the latter pedestrianised. The Quadrant was exceptionally narrow and adversely cambered, and the double-deckers would roll alarmingly on their leaf springs when taken at speed around the bend, as some drivers delighted in doing. One had firmly on the handrail, the other firmly on the cashbag, and firmly brace your knees, was the conductor’s golden rule. If two buses going in opposite directions happened to pass in the Quadrant, they would scrape past each other with inches to spare.

    By Len Liechti (27/04/2007)
  • This momument was donated by an actual relative of mine, and an Aunt sent me various photos and info from its grand opening which was quite an affair in its day. Hi to all the Willings back in the homeland especially Linda and Janet and of course Auntie Mavis.

    By Roger Willing (20/06/2011)
  • I remember it having the toilets underneath – way back before the plush ones in Churchill Square.

    By Vos (17/05/2013)
  • It is very interesting to note that this makes reference to John Willing, this is surely a mistake as it was James and not John, I am also a relative of James and take part in the London-Brighton car runs, and always visit the clock tower just to admire the workmanship.

    By Steve Willing (09/06/2020)

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