Iconic Cardiff Clock Restored

April 3, 2024 Uncategorized

The iconic Potts of Leeds Clock, originally gracing the Bute Docks Building (known as “The Pierhead Clock”) and more recently standing at home on St Mary’s Street, has undergone a comprehensive refurbishment by our team of clockmakers at Smith of Derby.

The clock during reinstallation

Removed in 1973 and later acquired by Cardiff City Council, the clock embarked on a journey that saw it travel across the Atlantic and back before finally returning to the city in 2005.  At Smith of Derby Clockmakers we were entrusted with the task of bringing the clock back to life in 2010, and across recent months have undertaken a complete refurbishment of clock.

Cardiff City Council and Residents Express Gratitude

Tye Whithear, Cardiff City Council representative, expressed his and the council’s sincere appreciation to Smith of Derby for their exceptional work. He commended Martin, Dean, Duncan, and the entire Smith of Derby team for their professionalism and dedication throughout the restoration project.

“The outstanding work in returning our much-loved Pierhead Clock back to its former glory has been met with tremendous positivity from residents and visitors alike,” Whithear said. “The new lighting has truly brought the clock to life, and it’s a joy to witness the appreciation from passers-by.”

A Meticulous Process:

November 2023 marked the beginning of the clock’s revival. Carefully lifted from its glass enclosure by S. G. Haulage, the clock and its steel roof made their way to Smith of Derby’s workshop. There, our team of skilled craftspeople undertook a thorough refurbishment of the clock. The clock’s intricate brasswork was meticulously cleaned using a high-pressure water blaster, revealing its stunning sheen. The heavily oxidised black base received a complete makeover with shot-blasting and powder-coating.

Modern Enhancements for Enduring Timekeeping:

Given the clock’s usual placement within a thick glass case, an autowind system is essential to keep it running smoothly. Smith of Derby’s latest AW11 model was installed, ensuring the clock’s precise operation for years to come.

The team also refurbished the upper drive gear and incorporated additional LED down-lighters to illuminate the brasswork. The steel frame supporting the gears and lights received a fresh coat of powder coating, complementing the base’s makeover. This frame also houses the clock’s bell, cast in 2010 by the now closed foundry in Whitechapel.

The Clock’s Journey to this Point:

The Potts flatbed clock was made in 1897 for the Bute Docks Building in Cardiff Bay and came to be known as ‘The Pierhead Clock’.  In 1973 British Rail removed the clock and replaced it with an electronic drive motor.  It was acquired by Cardiff City Council in 2005, after spending a number of years in the workshop of American collector Alan Heldman, who had bought it from a “Mr Pearce of London”.  Mr Headman had planned to restore the clock himself, but after reading an article about the city’s missing clock in a journal, plans were put in place to return the clock to Cardiff and this led to it being incorporated into the current design in 2011.

The Clock Before Refurbishment

After Refurbishment

A Collaborative Effort

Reflecting on the project, Complex Project Manager Martin Butchers said:

“It has been a pleasure working with Cardiff City Council. Estates Management Officer, Tye Whithear has orchestrated the smooth running of the project, and our Smith of Derby team have worked expertly to complete the refurbishment of the Potts of Leeds Clock. It is a privilege to return this clock to the people of Cardiff; a community who will hopefully enjoy it for many more years to come.”

Lit up at night with the new LEDs

About the author

Nicholas Whitworth: