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.
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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.
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.
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!
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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.
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.
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.)
- Extracts from Hungerford Constables' Accounts 1658-1789 relating to the Town Clock
- Town Halls of Hungerford
- Clocks and Sun dials - extracts from Constables' Accounts 1700-1736
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