Saving the Clock Tower

Clock Tower showing the telegraph mechanism installed during the Napoleonic Wars (F.G. Kitton, SAHAAS)

A unique English medieval town belfry

The Clock Tower is the only medieval town belfry in England. Completed in 1405, it enabled the hour of curfew (as well as alarms) to be sounded without the need for town dwellers to rely upon the Abbey. During its life the Clock Tower has been many things, from an alehouse to a Telegraph Station during the Napoleonic wars. You can find more about the history of the Clock Tower in a dedicated section of our website. It now symbolises our local heritage and culture and has inspired many artists, including Society members such as F. G. Kitton and Victoria Hine.

Campaigning for restoration rather than demolition

By the 1850s, the tower was highly dilapidated and, without the Society’s intervention, the Town Council might have demolished it. At this crucial point, the Society made the case for restoration and pledged funding towards the costs. This persuaded the Council to raise funds by public subscription. In 1914, we took over the lease and opened the Tower to the public, charging 2d admission.

Keeping the Tower open to the public

Later, the municipal authorities took over the lease but by the 1970s they could no longer afford to keep the Clock Tower open. Together with the Civic Society, we reached agreement with the St Albans City & District Council, enabling volunteers from both Societies to take on the task of opening the Clock Tower to the public.

The Clock Tower is usually open at weekends and on bank holidays from Good Friday to the end of September. Caroline Howkins, who leads the Society’s team of volunteers, approached Beth Jones, a student at the University of Hertfordshire, to make a model of the Clock Tower for our exhibition. Here are some pictures of work on the model.