Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Thamesmead's clock

This is another of the notes dug out by Diana Rimel - and thanks to her.
Packed up and ready to leave Deptford
In 1982 an officer of the GLC Historic Buildings Division noticed an 18th Century clock and cupola standing inside Convoy's Wharf in Deptford. Convoy's Wharf is on the site of the former Deptford Royal Dockyard, which dates back to the early years of the reign of King Henry VIII. It flourished during the 16th and 17th Centuries, but during the 18th Century it began to decline in importance because of its awkward, upstream position and the silting-up of the foreshore. The most important building in the Dockyard was the Great Storehouse, which was demolished in 1981, but thanks to the interest in local history of the manager of Convoy's, Mr A.R.Coates, the clock and cupola was lifted off the building intact, and preserved.

The Thamesmead General Manager wrote to Messrs Convoys (London) Ltd suggesting that Thamesmead could find a suitable location for the clock if they were willing to release it.  In reply, Mr Coates donated the clock and cupola to Thamesmead and it was eventually transported - by river, as it was too large to pass beneath several railway bridges by road - to the Royal Arsenal for safe keeping.
The clock and its tower go down river

The Finance and General   Purposes and Housing Committees of the GLC agreed expenditure for the restoration of the clock and cupola , and later for the construction of a supporting tower in the Classical style which had been designed by a firm of private architects in association with the Council's  Historic buildings Division. A stone tablet was incorporated into the brickwork of the tower, bearing the following inscription.

 "The clock and cupola come from the former Great Storehouse of the Deptford Royal Dockyard, and was donated to the Greater London Council by the kindness of A. R. Coates at Messrs’ Convoy’s (London Wharves) Limited.

The tower was designed by Leslie Jones and Partners architects in conjunction with the GLC's Director of Architecture, Historic Buildings Division"

Ultimately in December 1987, the completed structure and restored clock was handed over to Thamesmead Town and the specialist clock makers (John Smith and Sons of Derby) who had restored the clock during the original contract were retained on an annual maintenance contract. Nevertheless, after some short while, it became apparent that the machinery or movement was an unreliable time keeper.

The Clock movement is - with the exception of the chiming quarters wheel original and dates from 1782.  Inevitably the large brass gear wheels had worn. And whilst this was of little importance in its original position where daily corrections could be made easily, access to the clock on its free-standing tower is a very different matter.

It was decided in consequence, to connect the movement from the four faces, and insert an electrically operated self-correcting motor to drive the hands, which was done in September 1991. The original movement was left in place, and in the event of Thamesmead’s eventually creating a museum there will be the possibility of removing it and mounting it on permanent static display.

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