The Woolwich Arsenal site dates back to 1671, but was eventually closed in the 1990s. Restoration was under way in 2008 for the buildings to become one of the largest listed building residential developments in the UK, and working in partnership with English Heritage and the architects, we removed the clock movement to our Derby works for repairs, restoration and storage.
It is usual practice for Smith of Derby to retain clocks for safekeeping during construction work. Little did we realise how fortunate this would be for Royal Arsenal.
Before we were due to return the clock to site, an accident with an excavator caused the wholesale collapse of the clock tower. Mercifully no-one was hurt, but the subsequent making safe and rebuilding delayed the re-installation of the clock. Another fortunate aspect was the photo records we had kept of the tower interior, as these became vital to the restoration of the clock location.
Remarkably, over 85% of the original tower materials were re-used in the repair, but it was not until 2010, almost 2 years after the collapse, that our engineer was able to return the clock to its rightful place.