Hanwell Clock Tower
This was unveiled on Hanwell Broadway at midday on 7 May 1937, as part of Ealing's celebration of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) by Alderman Alfred Bradford, chairman of the Highways Committee. The Mayor, Frederick Woodward, was also present, as were members of the Hanwell Chamber of Commerce and 'a large concourse of the general public'.
Amongst other remarks, the Mayor said: "I consider Hanwell one of the finest gateways to the city of London, and I cannot think of a more fitting place for the clock". It had been Timothy King, a councillor from Hanwell, who had first suggested the idea and had fought for it in the Highways Committee. Alderman Bradford was proud that the Hanwell Clock had been the result of a Hanwell man's work. It was also noted that the Mayor was born in Hanwell (he also attended Hanwell National School and was married there).
However, the clock tower became the centre of controversy in the early 70s. This started because a Hanwell estate agent, one Mr Parish, objected to it and wanted to raise £5,000 to demolish it and replace it with something more pleasing. According to him, the clock tower was a "dreadful concrete eyesore" and "aesthetically pleasing neither in its location nor design". He added that it was "downright ugly built in the thirties, one of the worst periods for design". He also commented "the motive behind it was largely self-congratulatory on the part of a small village community". The latter statement was certainly open to question, since Mr Parish seemed to have had no evidence to back it up, and nor was Hanwell "a small village community" in 1937 with a population of over 20,000.
This caused much annoyance to both residents of Hanwell and commuters who passed the tower on their way to work. Parish's views were seen as 'arrogant' and 'insulting'. Some thought it was a useful reminder of the time (Mr Parish later doubted the clock's accuracy) or a good meeting place. Others defended it as being in the style of the time "if the clock tower is typical of the thirties, that is how it should be". The Elthorne Ward Labour Group also defended the tower, some members feeling that its removal might herald the construction of an office block.
On the whole, Parish's arguments were countered. The general thrust was that the clock tower needed restoration, not demolition. In the following year, such work was carried out and the tower properly cleaned up. Its appearance even had the effect of converting Mr Parish, who commented "I admit having said some harsh things about its architectural inadequacies", but he liked the new, clean, clock tower, "Come back, all is forgiven".
The problem of cleaning and restoration was a common one over future years. Sometimes the edifice had to be boarded up. However, in 2002, as part of the celebrations of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the clock tower was again restored. The clock put in operation again and a new plaque displayed to celebrate this renovation.
We would like to thank Dr Jonathan Oates, borough archivist and local history librarian, for the use of his information.