Clockwatch - what's really happening regarding historic borough timepiece

By Nub News Reporter

31st Mar 2024 | Local News

The Carnegie Clock
The Carnegie Clock

FOLLOWING recent speculation on social media about the fate of a borough relic, clarification has been forthcoming about the Carnegie Clock.

At the centre of debate is the clock which was originally part of the Grays Library building on Orsett Road, the site of the current Thameside Complex.

Grays' first library was situated in Grays High Street but by 1902 it was becoming short of space and the library committee decided to write to the philanthropic and library-supporting Andrew Carnegie, appealing for a donation towards the cost of building a new library building.

One of Carnegie's life long interests was the establishment of Free Libraries available to anyone as a means of self-education. The project was started in 1881 and he eventually spent over $56 Million and established 2,509 libraries throughout the world.

Mr Carnegie was willing to donate £3,000 provided a site could be found and a local architect, Christopher Shiner, designed the new Library. The Countess of Warwick opened the Library on 11th November 1903. The cost of the building was £2,591.15.0.

Grays library in 1915.

The turret clock had been presented by the school children of Grays; this clock was salvaged during demolition of the library to make way for the Thameside complex and is in the care of the local museum service, where it has been for some time after being recovered from storage at Coalhouse Fort.

Recently local councillor came up with the idea of bringing the clock back to life as part of the new Orsett heath Academy, effectively completing a full circle as it was originally bought by a school.

However, speculation about the plan bloomed on social media, suggesting that it was not in Cllr Redsell's remit and she came in for some criticism.

Now, well-known local resident Ray Smallcombe has asked Thurrock Nub News to state what has actually happened, saying: "Perhaps you will allow me to put a little light on the subject of the clock previously on display on the Grays Public Library.

"Some local folk may remember my company which operated in the Thurrock area for just over 30 years, from 1973.  

"We were manufacturers of Longcase clocks established in the Globe works in Grays for some 30 years, employing over 20 staff in the factory and exported our clocks all over the world. 

Andrew Carnegie.

"The company also had a retail outlet in Lakeside for some 20 years trading under the name of Smallcombe Clocks and Lights; the company also traded out of Welwyn Garden City as well as the Eastgate Centre in Basildon.

"I am giving this information purely to establish my credentials.

"I was approached by the committee of "Friends of Blackshots" as a local clock manufacturer to see if the clock previously known as the Carnegie clock could be restored. The Chairperson of Friends of Blackshots is councillor Joy Redsell. 

"In my opinion due to the manner in which the clock had been stored at Coalhouse fort for a number of years and subsequently in the back of the Thames Side Library the clock was totally beyond repair or restoration.  

"In order to substantiate this, I referred the matter to the Cumbria Clock company who are the leading Turret clock specialist and manufacturers in the country. They have worked on most of the most famous public clocks in London including the Westminster clock (Big Ben) and their credentials can easily be established by searching horological websites in the U.K.

The clock and weather vane.

"They also confirmed the clock was beyond restoration, but a replica could easily be made from photographs and measurements from what remained.  

"A restored clock was therefore not possible, but a replica could be produced using modern techniques and components. 

"The weathervane on top was also well beyond repair but could be copied, again using modern materials.

"The weathervane was handed to Joy Redsell by the lady in charge of antiquities at the library and is currently with the clock makers being copied, a receipt for which I have on file. The weathervane is the only piece of equipment that has been removed and once copied will be returned to the library; an arrangement with which the library I believe was compliant.

"The original clock of which we are talking is still in the Grays Thameside Library, with, as far as I know no plans to move it."


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