Posted by: travelrat | February 20, 2012

Amesbury Clocks

This is our Parish Church, St. Mary and St. Melor, in Amesbury. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see something unusual. There’s a sundial set into the wall. At a time when few people possessed clocks, or wore watches, this would be useful to anyone within sight of the church who wanted to know what time it was. And, on the bell tower, you will see a clock … presumably, for use at night, when the sun went in and the sundial didn’t work.

If you’re interested, there’s also a 15th Century clock inside the church.

But, this piece isn’t about clocks in general. It’s about public clocks, in particular, those in Amesbury, which has no less than four … or five, if you count the sundial! That’s rather a lot for a community of just less than nine thousand souls.

I have one or two friends with a clock on an outside wall, usually on the patio, but, quite often, it doesn’t work, and is only there for decoration. But, this one works, and can be seen from the street, so I suppose it can be counted as a Public Clock.


This one, usually known as the ‘When are they going to get that bloody thing working?’ clock was installed in 1979, to commemorate the 1000th Anniversary of the founding of Amesbury Abbey. The Abbey was demolished in the 16th Century; the clock seems in a pretty sorry state, too, after a much shorter time.

This clock stands at the top of a block of shops and flats at Stonehenge Walk, and is usually known as the ‘I didn’t know that was there’ clock. The flats haven’t been there that long; not long ago, it was Pitt’s Garage, which became the Giant Hogweed Conservation Area for a short while.

You can only really see the clock from the north-eastern side of the junction of London Road and Countess Road … but, at least, this one works!



  1. Hi,
    I love the idea of the sundial, it is great that it is still there.
    I think public clocks are a great idea, that seems to be no longer really thought of. I know most people wear watches these days, but for some reason I love looking at the large clocks in an area.

    Even in a lot of shopping centers (here anyway) they seemed to have stopped adding clocks and a few have even disappeared, I was told that it was best for keeping customers in an area longer, how true that is I’m not really sure. 🙂

    • I wonder how long watches will last, seeing as most people have a mobile phone with a clock on it. Like public clocks, they will probably pass with no-one noticing till they’re gone.

      Now, how many people do you know will see a public clock, and immediately say something like ‘Goodness! Look at the time! I must fly!’ … I know someone who has removed the clock from his bar for that very reason.

  2. Does the sundial still work? I am a fan of public clocks. As a child I remember there being a lot more of them than there are now. I still think they come in handy. The other day my watch stopped and there were no public clocks around so I had no idea what time it was. I tried to figure it out by looking at the sun but I had no idea what I was doing. You live in a very pretty area!

    • Oh, yes; the sundial still works, but only when the sun’s out. It is, however, a bit of a chore to adjust it for Daylight Saving. Maybe that’s why there’s not many around. 😀

  3. Hi Keith,

    I read in an old book about Salisbury (not sure which one) that there’s a mark on one of the walls within the Close which shows where the shadow of the Spire falls at midday. I’ve not found it as yet. It’s probably also a bit tricky to adjust for Daylight Saving!



  4. How accurate is that sundial? I’ve always been curious about them but can never remember to check my watch after looking at one!

    • I think that would depend on the accuracy of the calculations of the builder. Remember, too, that, until the coming of the railways, there was no such thing as ‘standard’ time … for instance, London time and Bristol time differed by, if I remember correctly, 20 minutes.

      Disregarding BST, I would guess plus or minus an hour is a pretty good figure …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: