Many people in Scunthorpe have fond memories of the clock tower that stood in the precinct which used to be a popular landmark and meeting place.
It was announced on 2nd April 1971 by Alderman L Hornsby that a clock tower would be erected in the precinct; it would be presented to the town by the British Steel Corporation.
Work on the construction was well underway during May and the 30ft tower had been erected by the end of that month. It was reported in June that within weeks the glass-fibre casing, shaped like a divers helmet, will be mounted to the steel supports and will eventually house a four-sided clock.
A report in the local media said, “A gift from the British Steel Corporation, the clock is impervious to the effects of the weather and the usual power failures. It consists of a glass-fibre sphere; 6ft in diameter, into which are set four faces each measuring 3ft in diameter.
“Placed high up on a steel structure, it is a so-called slave clock, operated from a master clock placed in another part of the shopping development. The master clock, in turn, is powered by batteries charged by the main electricity supply. These hold a three or four day charge so the clock will not be affected by a mains failure. A self-adjusting mechanism in the master clock ensures that the hands of any face of the slave clock which are speeded up or slowed down by strong winds are automatically regulated to the time on the other three faces.”
A spokesman for architects Messrs Ardin, Brookes and Partners said, “It is certainly an up-to-date clock and has been designed specially to fit into this particular development. It will be illuminated at night by fluorescent lighting.”
The clock was officially handed over by the British Steel Corporation to Scunthorpe Borough Council at a ceremony, in the pouring rain, on 5th November 1971.
David Joy, British Steel’s Scunthorpe group director, unveiled a plaque featuring stainless steel letters individually welded to a steel plate. He said the clock tower symbolised the co-operation that had existed for many years between the steel industry and the town.
Mr Joy noted the date, November 5th, was a date that commemorated a failure 366 years previous to blow up a house that later became famed for its clock tower.
He congratulated the council on the new precinct shopping development and the hard work being undertaken to change Scunthorpe into a modern town.
The Mayor, Councillor Oliver Duffelen, who officially accepted to clock on behalf of the community, echoed Mr Joy’s remarks on the unity between the steel industry and the town.
He said, “ Over the years we have had very good relations with the steel industry and they have been very kind to us in fostering the development of the town. I want to say a very sincere thank you to Mr Joy and his colleagues for their generosity.”
The clock didn’t work without teething problem after it was noted in December 1971 that some faces showed 9:15am whilst others 12:10pm. The council’s Deputy borough surveyor, Ken Horton, said the manufacturers had been informed and the council were awaiting a response.
In December 1973 it was reported that although the structure had originally been billed as impervious to the effects of weather, severe frost damage caused by water penetration had led to brickwork sagging and falling away from base of the clocks supporting structure.
In March 1993 shoppers wondered what was happening to the clock after the timepiece was sent away to specialist repairers in Croydon, Surrey. (See below left)
However, in October 1993, after repeated vandalism to the structure council bosses decided to take the clock down.
John Lowther, Borough Development Services Officer, revealed youths had made the foundations unstable by repeatedly rocking the tower and scaling it. They had also defaced the clock tower with graffiti on numerous occasions.
Councillor Howarth Gwynne, chairman of Scunthorpe Borough Council’s planning and transport committee, said the tower was becoming an eyesore and stressed local traders and British Steel had no objection to the clock going into storage.