Dirty Old London  published by
Yale University Press (October 2014)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Law Courts' Clock

The Royal Courts of Justice, also known to the Victorians as the New Law Courts, which were opened by Queen Victoria on 4 December 1882 (a rare public event for the mournful monarch).The building work for the courts had involved clearance of some of the worst slums in central London, which were replaced by this ...

The courts are a Gothic masterpiece (some would say monstrosity; personally I love them) designed by George Street; and present countless intriguing aspects ...

But the bit I adore most is the 'janus' (two identical faces) clock on the clock tower, at the very end of the Strand ...

It is, let's be honest, quite barmy. But I've never read much about it, so I thought I'd dig through the (electronic) archives and, typically, the Illustrated London News has all we need to know ...
The clock projecting over the street at Temple Bar, 100 ft high, from the south-eastern tower of the Royal Courts of Justice, was set working on Tuesday week, together with the six bells, the largest of which, striking the hours, weighs above three tons, and has a fine, deep, soft tone, of very agreeable quality. This bell is of 5 ft 10 in. diameter across the lips, 5 ft. high to the top of the crown and 5.75 in. thick at the sound-bow; it is composed of seventeen parts of copper to five parts of Cornish tin. The works of the clock are within the tower, so that the weight on the iron brackets hidden within the stonework is only that of the dials and the hands, or between 6 cwt. and 7 cwt. altogether. Of the clock, the chief points to note are that it is fitted with a Denison's gravity escapement and a patent remontoir arrangement, by which the minute hand is made to move like that of the clock at St. James's Palace - which was constructed by the same makers - every half minute. A compensating pendulam, 15 ft. in length, with a bob weighing 3 cwt., gives two seconds beats. The dials on each side, the one facing up the Strand, and the other facing down Fleet-street, are of 8 ft. 6 in. diameter, and are framed of cast-iron, with white opal glass, so placed as to be illuminated at night with very good effect. The manufacturers of the clock and bells are Messrs. Gillett and Co., of Croydon.

Illustrated London News, 29 December 1883 

So, now we know it was made in Croydon. But do the bells still ring? I must confess I've never noticed them - but perhaps I've mistaken them for church bells.

Can anyone tell me?


  1. http://www.shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=2526 Maybe this is the answer?

  2. Nice pictures. I hope you don't mind if I reproduce the Strictly Private one on my blog. Will credit. Thanks, Paul.

  3. amazed you found this defunct blog which never came to anything; but sure, feel free. best wishes, Lee