More about the Islington clock

I recently wrote about the clock in an article entitled A clock and a canal, and said that I would post any further information about this timepiece should it become available.

I decided to go straight to the source by emailing J. Smith & Sons, or Smiths Metal Centres Ltd, as they are now called. They were kind enough to respond to my enquiry and to allow me to publish two photographs of the clock from their archives.

The earliest picture of the clock from Smiths' archives
The earliest picture of the clock from Smiths archives

Unfortunately, with the passage of time, documents have been misplaced and it is now difficult to recover a complete history of the clock, though the search continues and – who knows? – may eventually bear fruit.

It appears that the clock was indeed built by Smith’s themselves who, as you may recall, started as manufacturers of clocks. It is not known exactly when the clock was installed or how soon after installation this photo was taken.

The following photo shows another interesting stage in our story.

Replacing the clock's movement
Replacing the clock’s movement

When first installed, the clock required winding every 8 days, a duty that was by covenant incumbent on Smiths themselves. I don’t know how long this remained the case but eventually – in the 1980s, it is thought – the original movement was replaced by an electric one and the photo shows this work taking place.

The photo also shows that by this time, the clock has been raised on a brick plinth, perhaps to make it more visible over the traffic or for some other reason. That plinth had disappeared by the time I made the acquaintance of the clock in 2005.

The clock today
The clock today

The Smith & Sons clock is not giving up its secrets easily but I am not defeated yet! I have contacted Islington Council to see whether anyone there knows anything or whether there are records that I might manage to see. I will pass on any information that I obtain.

Above is a picture of the clock as it appears today. (The workman’s gloves have been removed but it could do with a wash around the lower part.) I think it looks very handsome indeed and hope it will remain in place for many years to come.


See Researching the Angel Clock for further information on this clock.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to More about the Islington clock

  1. Reluctant Blogger says:

    It is intriguing that so many clocks needed to be wound on a regular basis. There must have been hordes of people trekking around climbing clock towers and winding them.

    My grandfather had a fascination for clocks – mostly house clocks (grandfathers and other smaller ones) and I love the sound of ticking and chiming clocks as it reminds me of my grandparents’ house. He would have been as interested as you are in the Islington clock although he would have been out there at night opening it up and investigating its mechanism too!

    Good luck with your further research.


    • SilverTiger says:

      Well, before the invention of electric motors, all clocks needed winding. This has left intriguing buildings like the clock tower in St Albans which contains what was once living space for the person who tended the clock.

      I suppose it would have been onerous turning out in all weathers to wind the clock but it sounds a rather charming occupation, a way of getting out of the office for a few hours!

      I like clocks too and would have the flat full of them but for the expense. The sort of clocks I like now cost a mint. From where I sit, I can see four clocks 🙂


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