Abberley Clock Tower

Abberley Clock Tower_2This imposing clock tower situated high above and just outside the western edge of  Great Witley is, strictly speaking, outside the parish of Great Witley & Hillhampton. However its location and history means it is one of the best known landmarks for local residents and as such we felt we should include reference to it. There are many reasons given for the building of the Clock Tower. One persistent local story is that  the owner John Joseph Jones (‘JJJ’) constructed it so that none of his numerous workmen and staff should ever have the excuse of not knowing the time.  However, it is more likely that he built it to exalt the Abberley Hall estate in the face of aristocratic rivalry from Lord Dudley at Witley Court nearby. Our favourite local rumour is that Lord Dudley used to boast he owned everything e could see from Witley Court, so ‘JJJ’ built the tower to end that boast!.

The sound of the clock sticking is well known to local people. If you have not yet had chance to see the inside of the tower take a look at our video of the Abberley Clock Tower_Clock Movement_2015 (480p) as it strikes 6 O’clock on 20th June 2015.

*The Clock Tower was commissioned in 1882 and plans were drawn up by the architect J.P. St. Aubyn. The builders were Patman and Fotheringham and their master mason was George Long.

Work began on 29th June 1883 and the topping out was on lst October 1884. On 10th June 1885 a final account was rendered for a total cost of £7,980

The height of the Clock Tower is 161 feet. It has three lower rooms, a sewing room and a clock room as well as two flushing WC’s (no longer in use).

The clock is by J.B. Joyce of Whitchurch, the firm which still services it.

The building is certainly prominent and can be seen from six counties. The carillon consisted of 16 bells weighing a total of 21 tons. These were raised into position through a series of trapdoors in each of the floors between ground level and the belfry. The heavy sound louvres are made of 1 1/4 inch plate glass, which have survived intact save one which was broken by a thunderbolt in 1969. Features include the four mosaic clock faces, a sundial and the Jones coat of arms.

Please Note: The Clock Tower forms part of a private estate and is not open to visitors, except on advertised open days.

In 1880, John Joseph Jones, a man of substantial wealth, inherited the Abberley Hall estate. Two years later he commissioned a carillon and clock tower, to be built on Merritt’s Hill due north of Abberley Hall. Work began in June 1883 and the edifice was completed in October 1884. This was remarkable progress at a time that most building materials had to be delivered to the site by horse transport, as contemporary photographs show.

In Victorian times, the large room with the oriel windows was used as a sewing room. It had a coal fire, costly hangings and a flushing WC nearby. Lighting was by gas, produced at the estate’s Gas House which can still be seen to the west of the Clock Tower although now in a ruinous condition.

The only time the Clock Tower was continuously inhabited was during the Second World War. It became a Home Guard observation post, reporting enemy aircraft making for Birmingham.

*ref Abberley Hall School website.


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