The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower around 1910. Courtesy of Leicester Voices by Cynthia Brown

The Clock Tower around 1910. Courtesy of Leicester Voices by Cynthia Brown

The 'Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower' was designed by Joseph Goddard and built in 1868. Now commonly known as the Clock Tower, it is one of the most recognisable of Leicester’s landmarks.  Although not at the geographical centre, this Grade II listed building is considered by many to be the focal point of the city.

This particular area of the city was originally the site of the Assembly Rooms but by the middle of the 19th century the area was becoming dilapidated.  Buildings in the area, including a furniture showroom and a store for straw and hay, were purchased by the Borough Corporation in 1859 for the sum of £6,300.  The Eastgates Improvement Committee, which was formed by owners of surrounding properties, bought the Assembly Rooms in 1862 and subsequently demolished them to overcome the difficulties caused by traffic congestion in the area.  Unfortunately traffic from six streets now poured into the vacant space and it was decided to build ‘The Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower’.  It would become the first traffic island in the country.  In 1903 tramlines were laid around the Clock Tower and the system of junctions was considered to be the most complicated in Britain.

A similar view of the Clock Tower from October 2012

A similar view of the Clock Tower from October 2012

The Clock Tower was designed by Joseph Goddard and was built to honour four famous benefactors from Leicester’s history: Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester; William Wyggeston, founder of Wyggeston’s Hospital and benefactor of the Free Grammar School; Sir Thomas White, founder of a charity which offered interest-free loans to young men starting out in business; and Alderman Gabriel Newton who founded Alderman Newton’s School.  The style is Gothic and it was mostly built from Ketton limestone with a base of Mountsorrel granite.  Sculptor, Samuel Barfield, who was also responsible for the carving  of the stone decorations on the Midland Bank in Granby Street, made the four Portland Stone figures. The clock was supplied by Gillet and Bland of Croydon

The Clock Tower area has been a focal point for Leicester people throughout its history: this was one of the three places in the town where proclamations were read out by the town crier on important occasions; a few of the older residents can remember V.E. celebrations being held around the Clock Tower and nowadays it is a focal point for our Christmas festivities each year with its magnificent Christmas tree helping to get us into the Christmas spirit.  

Reference

Taylor, M. 1997 The Quality Of Leicester , Leicester: Leicester City Council.

Banner, J. 1991 Discovering Leicester, Leicester, Leicester City Council