My Place… Bridport Town Hall Clock – Paul Violet

My Place... Bridport Town Hall Clock with Paul Violet

I am in charge of looking after the Town Hall clock — among other things! I live in the lodge at Bridport Cemetery. I am responsible for preparing the graves, liaising with the undertakers, and sometimes just having a cup of tea in the office with people visiting a grave who are just overcome with grief.

I am a mace-bearer for the Mayor and I look after the market when the superintendent is off.

My family are from Drimpton and I have been married to Clare for 27 years and have a daughter Becky, who’s 20.

Some Saturday mornings, if I have a bit of time, I’ll come up here to the cupola on the top of the clock tower, stick the harness on, and just watch the street wake-up and the market setting up. It’s a nice thing to do.

Come up here on a windy day, it’s like being on a full-rigged ship!

Bridport Town Hall Clock's mechanism

I have been in charge of the clock since 2008. That came about by going down to see Roger Snook to hire a suit for a wedding, when Roger was looking after the clock.

He had taken it on for three months and I think he did it for 13 years. He said he could really do with someone else taking it on, so I said that I might be interested in that.

I was working for Oxenbury’s then. So I volunteered to look after the clock and it went from there — my little contribution to Bridport.

Bridport has always been good to me

I have been working for the town council for five years now.

Bridport has always been good to me, and now I work for the council I can put something back into the town. Seeing how much work goes on behind the scenes has certainly opened my eyes.

One of the highlights for me was the Rifles’ Freedom of Bridport parade a year ago. There I was, on mace-bearing duties, riding in a limousine with Brigadier Rupert Jones, who is the son of Colonel “H” Jones (the Falklands hero) and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant. I was thinking: “How did this happen?”

It was a really good day and you feel so proud to be a part of what’s going on in the town.

Graffiti near the Tradesmen's Door in the Bridport Town Hall clock tower
Graffiti near the Tradesmen’s Door in the Bridport Town Hall clock tower

One thing I love in the Town Hall is what we call the “Tradesmen’s Door”. It’s covered with graffiti — signatures and so on — from people who have worked in the Town Hall over more than 100 years.

I’m on there now and there’s also one signature from a baker — not sure what he was doing.

The clock was electrified in 1973. Prior to that, the clockwinder would have had to come in once a week and wind it with the handle. In those days, the clockwinder wasn’t allowed to go through the Town Hall, so he had his own little door to go in.

There are two bells up there to give you the ting-tang to sound the quarters and one for the hour strike.

The hour strike bell is set an octave higher than the bell of St Mary’s Church, so when they strike together they’re in harmony with each other.

But my theory is that this clock runs on Bridport time! It is very difficult to set a clock like this exactly.

A sight not often seen - the back of one of the faces of Bridport Town Hall's clock
A sight not often seen – the back of one of the faces of Bridport Town Hall’s clock

Nowadays, the first strike in the morning is at 8 o’clock, but years ago, it used to be 6 o’clock, because that’s how people knew to get up — that’s how times change.

I haven’t done any courses or anything. There was a horologist over at Broadwindsor that Roger Snook put me in touch with, so if there were any problems he would come over and take me through various things.

So now I know what’s what and there shouldn’t be anything to go wrong.

It gets looked after well now. I do rather love this clock, I must admit.

Of course the custom in Bridport is that the clock strikes 13 times at midnight on New Year’s Eve — that’s another little bit of Bridport time.
But because it’s set on the night pins, the only way to strike it, is for me to come in and do it manually.

So come midnight, I come up here and yes, I am the man who brings in the New Year to Bridport!


Watch a short video of the Bridport Town Hall Clock mechanism in operation:

Did you know Bridport Town Hall's clock's movement is 'a double three-legged gravity escapement with ting-tang quarters…

Posted by Yarn Magazine on Friday, 5 June 2015

Bridport Town Hall's Clock

Bridport Town Hall’s Clock

The present movement dates from 1919 by J Smith & Sons of Derby. It’s a double three-legged gravity escapement with ting-tang quarters and an hour strike.

The original clock dated from 1805 by J Moore of Clerkenwell and was of “birdcage” construction with, most likely, a dead beat escapement.

The original dials were solid, probably wooden, replaced with glazed skeleton dials in the mid-19th century, which were lit by gas to mark the Treaty of Paris in 1856. Electric lighting was originally external floodlights and is now internal fluorescent tubes.

The original bells were recast in 1928 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

The clock was overhauled and electrified in 1973. In 1980 new stainless steel spindles and check springs were fitted to the bell hammers by the Whitechapel Foundry.

The night silencing mechanism was installed in 1919.

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