Signs and Wonders 27: The craftiest clock

Evening Post, 16 Mar 2006

WHERE: Pit and Pendulum pub, Victoria Street

WHAT: This is one of those buildings that rewards a long look.

Robert Evans, who built it in 1870, and Evans and Jolley, who expanded it in 1873, have packed in plenty of details, some more fitting than others for its overall Italianate style. Watch out for the three decorative panels, depicting "agriculture", "trade" and "commerce".

But the star turn is the magnificent clock. This announces the name of Lewis & Grundy, the firm based here from 1869 until 1971. And the little blacksmiths on the top show you what they did: ironmongery, although that seems too narrow a term.

In Industries of Nottingham (1889), their list of specialist stock includes "all kinds of colliery equipment", silver goods, gas lamps and cutlery. They were also the only shop in Notts or Derbyshire that could sell you a Remington typewriter.

By 1949, when they commissioned this clock from G & F Cope, another famous old Nottingham firm, they were "architectural ironmongers", with a range from door handles to spiral staircases.The bronze for the stairs at the old Co-op department store was cast in their Lace Market works.

Such a firm wanted a clock that showed their "workmanship and originality" - and they certainly got it.

Back when it was fully working, the two smiths would each strike every 15 minutes. On the hour, they struck four times each, and the grey-haired senior smith hammered out the time.

Five bulbs lit the forge behind them - it went from a flicker to a fierce orange glow - and a customised steel gong concealed under the forge canopy gave out the loud clinks of a blacksmith at work. The smiths also had rubber aprons, which flapped slightly in the wind.

When Lewis & Grundy moved out to Lenton in 1971, they gave the clock to the city council, which kept it in the Brewhouse Yard museum and then had it repaired and put back in place in 1981. It needed further repairs in 1983, and I can find no record of it working since.

The mechanism would doubtless be fiendish to repair and maintain, but wouldn't it be wonderful to see that forge lit again?