Penarth’s iconic Town Clock – which for 31 years has valiantly attempted (with limited success) to tell local residents the right time – has today been removed and replaced with a brand new “like-for-like” version.
A team from the clock-makers Smiths of Derby began work at Penarth roundabout at first light this morning to extract the old clock – first by removing the head – then the column – and finally the base which contains the electrical mechanisms.
A mobile crane was brought in from Lincolnshire to lift the old clock out of its housing and set the identical new one in its place.
The old clock was originally presented to the town by the Penarth Rotary Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the club’s foundation.
The then Mayor of Penarth, former Councillor Clive Williams, and ther chairman of Penarth Rotary Club officiated at the installation of the original clock in 1987.
Regrettably, in the intervening years the Rotary Club itself has been wound up. It closed in 2016. (Although the Rotary Club has gone from Penarth the new clock also bears the emblem of the Rotary Club on its four faces).
The original clock stood on the Windsor Road Roundabout through several windy, wet and freezing winters and – as time went on – became increasingly unreliable.
Sometimes snow stopped the town clock altogether and frequently local residents found that on many occasions the four faces failed to show the same time.
Over the years – despite meticulous maintenance which involved removing its headgear and taking it back to the factory for adjustment – it became more and more eccentric .
The clock received major surgery in 2009 but the makers found that parts for the ageing mechanism were becoming became increasingly hard to get.
According to the Penarth Town Council’s accounts , in the year ending March 31st 2017 the Labour-run council spent over ten thousand pounds (£10,912.00p to be exact ) on maintenance of the Town Clock…but to no avail.
Eventually one face stopped telling the time altogether and as a temporary stop-gap – and in order to avoid confusing local residents – the faulty face, even though it was right twice a day, was blanked-off with a plaque which read “Welcome to/ Croeso i Penarth ”
Welsh language activists complained the blanked-off face was grammatically incorrect, and – in any case – the Welsh message should have had priority and come before the English.
It was unfortunate for the council that the blanked-off face also happened to be the one which faced the shopping centre on Windsor Road- and was therefore the one which was usually most consulted by passers-by .
The cash for the new clock will not come from the pockets of council-tax payers but from a Section 106 contribution from the developers of “Oculus” – the new apartment development opposite the entrance to Penarth Library.
The “like-for-like” replacement clock – a brand new one made by Smiths of Derby – with a new column and new metal cabinet at the base, was operation by lunchtime today.
The new clock is almost the same as the old one – but not quite .
Eagle-eyed local residents pointed out that the new clock has convex bevelled glass on all four faces making the new clock’s dials slightly easier to read than those of its predecessor. The old one will now spend the rest of its days in Penarth cemetery.