The Best London Clocks and the History Behind Them – Part 2
Having shared a post about the best London clocks back in February, I’ve stumbled across more beautiful (and historic) ones! Ready for round two of London’s best clocks?!
Faced with the dominating West Front of Westminster Abbey, the clock is probably not the first thing you’d notice.
The West Towers were a late addition to the 13th century Abbey, its upper sections designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and completed by John James in 1745 after Hawksmoor’s death.
The clock dates from 1738 and was designed by John Seddon. It’s unusual because it’s one-handed, only showing the an hour hand and therefore looks a bit more like a compass!
Just off Borough High Street, inside the atmospheric George Inn you’ll find this 18th century clock.
A nearby sign declares it an extremely rare ‘Parliament Clock’, one of the few surviving clocks that were hung up in response to the government’s tax on clocks in the 18th century.
The oft-repeated story is that this was installed in the pub so that people would pop in to see the time because they couldn’t afford their own. However this was just a myth that started after the tax was repealed. It was such an unpopular and ill-thought out tax that it only lasted a few months!
The second most famous clock in London to overlook the Thames…
Today known as 80 Strand, the 1930s building was Shell Mex House, the former HQ of Shell Mex and BP. The clock face is the largest in the UK at 7.62 metres in diameter, hence the nickname Big Benzene!
Glance down St Mary-at-Hill Street off Eastcheap and you’ll see this lovely wonky clock. The church website doesn’t confirm its exact date but the church was rebuilt by Christopher Wren in the 17th century.
According to Know Your London, the clock is powered via mechanics in the tower on the other side of the building and connected through a long internal rod!
Moorfield Eye Hospital
In Old Street, this clock looks back!
Bang on theme, this is Moorfields Eye Hospital, founded in 1805. In 1897 it moved to this location on City Road and today it’s part of the NHS and is the leading provider of eye health services in the UK.
The clock is a relative newbie, dating from 1999 in a commission to celebrate the Queen visiting the hospital.
Like the prow of a ship, No.1 Poultry’s pink and red mass looms over Bank Junction.
The building was pretty controversial when it was erected in 1998, designed by James Stirling. Not only did Time Out name it the 5th worst building in London in 2005, but Prince Charles described it as a ‘carbuncle’ and resembling a ‘1930s wireless’.
Today the building is owned by WeWork and from the inside (aptly named the clock room) it’s a delight!
Sitting on Ludgate House at Ludgate Circus is this impressive timepiece.
Built 1872-3, it was originally a Thomas Cook branch and you can see some fun details of the building’s travelling cherubs here.
Wild at Heart
This attractive florist in Notting Hill has a few different names; ‘Turquoise Island’ which sounds rather exotic and ‘Westbourne Grove Lavatories’, less so.
Commissioned by local residents, the it’s still a functional public toilet for male, female and disabled users. While the pointy end is a florist. It was completed in 1993 and designed by Piers Gough of CZWG Architects and the clock is rather lovely!
(New) Big Ben
Of course the Elizabeth Tower got a mention in the first post about London’s clocks, but it’s worth taking a closer look now the refurbishment is taking shape.
When the first ‘new’ clock face emerged in March 2019 Londoners were in shock. the numerals and clock hands were blue!
Intrigue. Anger. Outrage.
Naturally a barrage of articles and tweets complaining about the change to an icon. However this all died down when it emerge that this shade of blue was the original colour, it gathered soot and grime since it was unveiled the late 1800s then was repainted black in the 1930s. It’s now been restored as first intended!
Find the Best London Clocks
Click on the map to find the locations of all the clocks listed above (as well as all the clocks in part one) If I’ve missed your favourite, let me know in the comments!
More London Inspiration
Open House Festival 2023 is 6-17 September and there are hundreds of London’s unusual and inspiring buildings to visit (some of which are only open to the public for Open House). As ever, there’s so much to choose from and sift through so I’ve done......
Once one of the most magnificent Gothic revival churches in London, the Grade I listed St Michael and All Angels in Shoreditch is now set to become office space. It seems quite the juxtaposition, but there’s a lot more to the story… History of St......
Within Kensington Garden’s Italian Gardens you can find the monumental Queen Anne’s Alcove. Not only was it designed by Christopher Wren but it has a surprising history! The Italian Gardens were laid out around 1860, spearheaded by Prince Albert. They followed a similar plan for......
London is home to an incredible selection of world-class museums but we’re also spoilt for choice with quirkier, small ones too. In no particular order, here is my selection of the 20 best small museums in London. How many have you visited?! 1. The Hunterian......
Sat alongside the busy Victoria Street, Christchurch Gardens doesn’t seem that historic at first glance. However, scratch the surface and there’s plenty of stories connected to this little green space. In September 2020 the gardens reopened after an extensive 3-year refurbishment by ReardonSmith. Regrettably a......
The Hunterian Museum, one of London’s best niche museums, reopened last week. Sat within the Royal College of Surgeons on Lincoln’s Inn Fields, it charts the development of surgery and pursuit of medical knowledge through the centuries. If that sounds a bit dry, think again.......