REWIND: The history behind Barry's town clock

By Ellyn Wright

24th Apr 2022 | Local News

Image by Tony Hodge via Geograph
Image by Tony Hodge via Geograph

Did you know the Vale of Glamorgan Mayor can officially stop time?

One of Barry's key landmarks, many of us pass by the King's Square library on a daily basis. While we may acknowledge its presence from time to time, many of us forget to look up, perhaps only noticing it when something goes wrong…

Atop the town council office sits the clock tower, which has overlooked the square for over 100 years.

The clock was completed in 1908 and rang for 50 years without stopping, playing the 'Westminster Chimes'. The sound can be heard from five miles in any direction, even out to sea.

The clock's smallest bell is called 'Little Boy', weighing a quarter tonne; 'Mother' weighs half a tonne and 'Father' weighs one tonne.

Once wound by hand, the clock is now computer driven. It also gets stopped twice a year, when the clocks go forward and back and hour.

In 1903 the council acquired the excavated Maes y Cwm Quarry site, which was later filled in enabling Central Park and the library to be built.

The public library committee report from 31 March the year before stated a great need for a permanent building as means of removing "the many disadvantages that are experienced at the present."

A special committee was elected in October on the motion of councillor Paterson to consider the advisability of approaching the Andrew Carnegie Trust for a grant to fund the building of a public library.

The committee was awarded an £8,000 grant and an architectural competition was held in 1903.

The winners were C.E. Hutchinson and E. Harding Payne, of London, who devised the symmetrical plans, red brick and bath stone material and the clock tower itself, domed in copper, emulating the Baroque style.

Three years later, the library was opened by the Earl of Plymouth on Saint David's Day and in 1908 the town hall was completed at a cost of £7,488. It was officially opened on 22 April.

The occasion was celebrated with the Barry Boys String Band playing as Barry Urban District Council had its new office.

A Mr T A Jones was responsible for the stone lions that guard the entrance. The clock was not part of the same contract and was supplied at a cost of £329.10.

The Charter of Incorporation granted in 1939 led to the creation of Barry Borough Council, meaning the council could appoint a town mayor for the first time.

Further reorganisation in 1974 led to the creation of the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council, with its centre at the town hall. In 1981, the council chamber was used for the last time, and the Mayor and council moved to the Civic Offices in Holton Road.

And in a historic quirk of local government, should the Vale of Glamorgan Mayor request it they can in theory stop time on the clock…

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