Sunday, 21 September 2014

Caledonian Park Clock Tower

This weekend has been Open House London 2014, when over 800 buildings are open to the public (see A big thanks goes out to all the organisations and volunteers that make this weekend happen. For me it is the usual hectic journey across the city to see as many buildings as possible.

One of the highlights was the Caledonian Park Clock Tower. Interestingly, this could be spotted from two other buildings visited - firstly from 5 Pancras Square, a brand new office and leisure complex for Camden:

...and also from the Victorian Waterpoint which now belongs to the St Pancras Cruising Club (as in canal boats), glimpse through the cranes and gasholders on the redeveloping railway lines north of Kings Cross:

The clock tower is located in Caledonian Park. The area was redeveloped in the 1850s to become the principal livestock market for London, replacing Smithfields.The size of the market was huge, and in 1862 it handled 300,000 bullocks, 1.5 million sheep (that's over 4,000 per day), 28,000 calves and 29,000 pigs.

The clock tower was one of the key features of the market, and one of the few buildings that remain today.

The tower is 45.6 metres tall and clad in Portland stone. Further details of the clock tower, the Caledonian cattle market and the previous and more recent uses of the site can be found in the publication "Caledonian Park and its surroundings" published by the Islington Publishing Society for the Caledonian Park Friends Group (

A sense of the size of the tower can be gained from the picture below, showing visitors on the belfry balcony.


 Time now to go inside. The start of the journey up the tower is by an easy spiral staircase, but the ascent soon requires negotiating steep ladder-like stairs.

As you go up you see the huge weights...

...and the enormous pendulum (for a sense of scale look at the pair of legs on the ladder to the left of the pendulum).

And so to the clock itself, manufactured by John Moore and Sons.

On the next floor up is the fantastic room containing the four dials - it is always fascinating to see these from the inside.

I don't know how big these dials are, but again the human scale comparison is shown in the photo below.

Up once more, and we come to the belfry. The bells were cast by C&G Mears Founders, now known as the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

And the view from the balcony around the belfry (with its scarily low railings) is spectacular. The picture below show the view towards the cluster of tall buildings in the City of London. The grassy area and the buildings immediately beyond it were originally all part of the cattle market.

And finally just some further pictures taken inside.

Islington Council are currently holding a consultation (open until 5 October 2014) on repairs and improvements to the tower (

Sunday, 31 August 2014


A trip to the Kent coast, to the old resort of Margate. Famous for Dreamland, Hornby trains, Tracey Emin, and now the Turner Contemporary gallery (with current excellent exhibitions on Mondrian and Edmund De Waal).

The most obvious clock in the town is that of the clock tower, built to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

The clock tower was officially opened on 24 May 1889. The four clock faces are each 5 feet in diameter, and the clock itself is by Potts of Leeds. Loads more facts about the building and the clock (and indeed the time ball which sits on top of the tower) can be found in "Margate Clock Tower" by Mike Bundock, and published by Margate Civic Society (2013).

Margate railway station was opened in 1863 (originally being called Margate West), and is served by the domestic High Speed services from St Pancras. The modern trains look rather out of place in the station.

The current station building dates from 1926, and includes this interesting clock in the booking hall.

This next fine building in Market Place is the old town hall. 

The Pier and Harbour Company building of 1812 is located next to...well, the harbour. And also right next door to the Turner Contemporary. Turner may have love the light conditions in Margate, but I doubt he enjoyed the stench of the harbour mud when the tide is out. The building is now used as a tourist information centre.

The tower has two different styles of clock face. Oddly, the plainer version is the one which faces the entrance.

The building was destroyed by bombing in WWII, and was rebuilt to its old design in 1947. And it is apparently called Droit House.

A newer clock tower now, that of the College Square shopping centre. This fairly tacky piece of architecture sits on land that used to be Margate College.


A fairly uninspiring (and cheap looking) clock face, which show some considerable deterioration on the other side.

St John the Baptist church is at the top end of the High Street. There has been a church on the site since about 1050, and the current building was thoroughly restored during the 1870s.

More retail now. And not a bad attempt to provide a clock as gateway to the arcade, what with its bells and other sculptural features.

The minute hand has come in for a bit of damage - I assume it is vandalism, given the relative ease in which someone could climb up to it.

The clock on the other end of the arcade is stuck at two minutes to twelve.