Posted on 22 November, 2011
The historic Pierhead clock that stood in Cardiff docks for nearly 80 years was unveiled on Tuesday November 8th, 2011, after being restored to its former glory by world renowned clockmakers, Smith of Derby. A special parade was held to mark the unveiling of the Pierhead Clock, which returned to Cardiff after an absence of nearly 40 years, including a Royal British Legion marching band.
The restoration of the 114-year-old clock was a special moment for the firm’s engineers as the original was made by Potts of Leeds, which is owned by Smith of Derby, when installed in the Welsh capital’s Pierhead building in 1897.
It was auctioned off by British Rail in 1973 and then sold on to an American collector, Alan Heldman, three years later. In 2004 he decided that the mechanism should be returned from Alabama to Cardiff, and having been restored, its unveiling will mark the completion of major city centre improvements in Cardiff.
Eric Beardow, Senior Clockmaker at Smith of Derby, said the restoration work included replacing lost parts and making a completely new strike second wheel, part of the gear structure which allows the bell to be struck, which engineers were able to do using original Potts parts. The clock was then repainted in traditional Potts livery of burgundy and black. “We found an old photograph showing a clock of a similar vintage which allowed us to repaint this one in traditional Potts colours,” he added.
New dials, a bell, hammer, gears and dialworks have also been used, as well as the inclusion of the latest technology in a pendulum regulator to help preserve accuracy, and an automatic winding system.
Bob Betts, Managing Director of Smith of Derby, said: “The challenge was how to take an antique clock and adhere to all the regulations surrounding antiques whilst creating an iconic clock for the people of Cardiff. There is a great story and history to the clock and, being one of our own originally, to see it up and running again is something everyone at Smith of Derby is very proud of."
A piece of art housing the clock mechanism has been created by the artist Marianne Forrest, and the clock will be surrounded by a metallic question mark, providing information about the history of the clock and the docks area. It also houses three replica monkeys, which will strike hourly chimes, which have local historical significance. The clock will stand in the spot where, in the late 18th Century, ships would have operated before Cardiff Docks were built. Cardiff Council Leader, Councillor Rodney Berman, described the new clock as “a really impressive piece of public art”. Pat Thompson, Commercial Development Manager for Cardiff City Council said to Bob Betts. “Thanks for all your efforts and those of your team, not forgetting Marianne. It is a credit to your company and will be a key meeting point for the people of Cardiff.”
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