The redevelopment works of Manchester Town Hall have been rather long, but whilst it still remains closed to the public the hall is offering people the chance to get an insight into the restoration process. Manchester City Council has announced that visitors to Central Library will have “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to get up close to a huge pair of hands from the city’s iconic town hall clock tower this summer.
The town hall clock hands will be on display in Manchester Central Library’s main entrance, the Shakespeare Hall, from Friday 26 May until the end of August. They’re one of four pairs of hands from the clock; there’s one pair per dial on the 87-metre high clock tower, which dominates the central Manchester skyline.
Made of copper, the longer second hand is 2.4 metres (7 feet 10ins) long, and the hour hand measures 1.8 metres (5 feet 10ins). As part of the Our Town Hall project, the four dials are being restored, and the flashed opal glass in them, which has had lots of damage and repairs over the years, is finally being replaced.
The clock itself has been taken apart and out of the building by public clock specialists, The Cumbria Clock Company, who have maintained it for the last 25 years or so. All of the mechanical elements will undergo a full maintenance check and restoration, followed by monitoring and tests for accuracy. The clock will then be reinstated into the refurbished tower later in the project.
The clock was built by top Victorian clockmakers Gillett and Bland of Croydon and was started on New Year’s Day in 1879. Only four other clocks like the one in the Manchester Town Hall tower exist; at Hampton Court, London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Birmingham Law Library and Toronto City Hall.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council said: “At every stage, the Our Town Hall project is restoring historical gems and safeguarding them for the future. A key part of the project is to improve access to the Town Hall and its treasures, so while the clock hands will obviously return to their rightful place after the clock is restored – we wanted to put them on display while we could.”
Keith Scobie-Youngs, Director at The Cumbria Clock Company added: “Once we’d removed the clock hands from the four dials, it seemed like a wasted opportunity to just store them away. Putting two of them on display like this is a great idea; people have a great empathy with clocks – they’re given as gifts at notable times and often passed down through generations. So, the chance to stand face-to-face with copper hands from the iconic clock tower is something we were only too happy to support.”