Town Hallclock

A brief history of Alston Town Hall clock, frozen in time……
help us to ring the changes!

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The clock was manufactured by Cooke of York in 1859 & takes the form of an hour strike, quarter ting tang movement driving the three dials through a single five-legged gravity escapement with pendulum action. The three dials are manufactured from a frosted plate glass with black roman numerals & minute marks

The clock is featured in the book, The Turret Clocks of T. Cooke & Sons of York. A historical perspective 1807 – 1897 by Steve & Darlah Thomas.

In 1857 it was decided that the town of Alston needed a town hall – somewhere for people to get together for cultural gatherings and to give a ‘home’ to the local Poor Law Commissioners, the Mechanics’ Institute and the Savings Bank. A committee was formed and subscriptions collected. The hall was to be built in the centre of the town on a site donated for the purpose by Greenwich Hospital.

Hugh Lee Pattinson, the town’s printer who had purchased the first of Cooke’s turret clocks for his chemical works at Felling, returned to his birthplace to lay the foundation stone. It was a grand day in the town, with shops closed and flags flying in the warm summer sunshine. In a speech he gave following the stone-laying, H.I.P. informed his audience of the plan for:

“….a handsome clock tower, and it is proposed to furnish it with a good clock that will strike the hours and chime the quarters on three sweet-toned bells.”

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In the Cooke catalogues the clock is described as:
1859 – An eight-day Clock, striking the hours on a bell of 5cwt., and the quarters on two bells of 51/4 cwt., with three illuminated glass dials, 4 feet 4.5 inches in diameter; erected in the Town Hall of Alston, Cumberland.

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Sadly the clock has not worked for a number of years and the bells and chimes have fallen silent. The dial motion works on right hand side dial are seized, also, one of the timbers which supports a clock hammer as collapsed due to the fixings having rusted away, this is now resting on top of one of the connection levers, so this won’t work either.

Work needed: The movement requires an on site overhaul which would involve dismantling the complete movement, cleaning, checking all bearing for wear, freshly lubricating then re-assemble & as a matter of safety we would replace the weight cables. The three hammers that operate on the bells are in a poor & rusty condition due to their exposed position & would benefit from a workshop overhaul.

A cherry picker / hoist is needed to approach the seized dial externally to remove the hands & withdraw the dial motion works internally, to enable them to be dismantled, freed & cleaned. At the same time it would also be beneficial to dismantle the other two set of dial motion works to ensure they are in good order. Ideally an automatic winder to the mechanism would also be fitted so that a weekly, manual winding in the clock tower isn’t required.

To employ a clock specialist who has the skills necessary to undertake such work on a clock of this age and importance isn’t inexpensive. The work detailed above will need to be carried out by a clock specialist with the necessary skills and experience

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The Town Hall is rich in history and today remains an significant building and focal point in Alston, home to the library and Tourist Information Centre (Local Links), offering residents and visitors alike, important local information about what’s on the in the area, places to stay and general community news. The main hall hosts various events, including the town’s annual pantomime, monthly craft market, keep fit classes, music gigs, screenings by Alston Moor Film Club and is available for anyone to hire for private functions such as birthday and anniversary parties, business meetings and presentations, workshops etc. Alston Moor Historical Society have their archive office at the town hall and opens to the public each Saturday to answer queries on local and family history.

The Town Hall is in the heart of the town and we want to bring the clock back to life…. it’s been dormant and quiet for too long. We are currently applying for heritage grants, planning to launch a PR campaign Autumn 2018 and shortly launching a Crowdfunding appeal. Watch this space……

its just amatter of time

Alston Town Hall,
Front Street,
CA9 3RF.
Tel. 01434 382244

Library opening times
Monday 10am - 3pm
Tuesday 10am - 5pm
Wednesday 10am - 3pm
Thursday 10am - 3pm
Friday 10am - 5pm
Saturday 10am - 3pm
Sunday Closed

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