Shropshire Star

Flashback to September 1999

On September 18, 1999, Broseley's historic town hall clock returned in triumph to the town after an intense hunt to find where it had gone.

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Roy Lane and television presenter Simon Keeling with the historic clock after its return to Broseley in September 1999.

Hundreds of townsfolk took part in a gala day of festivities to welcome the timepiece back after an enthusiastically supported "Bring The Clock Back" campaign.

The day of celebrations even had a celebrity in the form of television presenter Simon Keeling.

There were grand plans to erect it on an impressive 45ft tower in the centre of Broseley to mark the millennium. Various fundraising efforts were held locally to meet the cost.

Spot the similarity. The Broseley Town Hall clock in September 1963, shortly before the building was demolished.

You can go to Broseley now to admire it – but you will be wasting your time.

Because it isn't there. Where is it? Well, put it this way. Has anyone seen a big, big, clock?

It's not something you would miss, being early 19th century or late 18th century, with a stone face six inches thick, and so heavy that on that gala day it was brought to the town on a dray towed by a Shire horse.

Amazingly, having disappeared once in its life after the demolition of Broseley Town Hall in the early 1960s, the clock, the subject of so much town interest only a little over 20 years ago, has disappeared again.

Obviously somebody will know where it is. But it doesn't help that the whole episode seems to have faded from Broseley's collective memory.

"Try Mick Burton," a couple of councillors suggested when I made inquiries.

But Councillor Burton didn't know either. He's heard vague rumours. He has a memory that it was brought up at the town council some years ago, and that there were question marks over whether it was the right clock.

So I described it to him from our 1999 pictures.

"It's about 6ft across."

He was amazed.

"I didn't realise it was that big. I was under the impression it was more like 18 inches. I thought it was a smaller clock to that and so did a lot of my councillors."

Broseley Town Hall in the early 1960s.

It doesn't help too that the main man in the story of the clock's return, former Broseley mayor Councillor Roy Lane, died in 2007.

Broseley Town Hall, which was built in 1777, was demolished around December 1963 but its clock was preserved, subsequently to disappear. However, dipping into our files from 1999, the mystery of the missing years was at least partly solved by Roy Dudgon, of Bridgnorth, who told us at that time: “I can tell you what happened to it – as I took it down.

"I was working at the time for Mr Lewis Motley, who lived at Much Wenlock Abbey, who had an engineering firm in Barrow Street, Much Wenlock. He’s dead now and the firm closed.

“He bought the clock, I think it must have been from Broseley council, and me and another chap went with Mr Motley, dismantled the clock and took it down and took it to Much Wenlock Abbey.

“It was then rebuilt in the old dorter house in the abbey grounds, and hung up with its pendulum. We took the clock face as well. It was all working.

“That little dorter house was used as a drawing office and Mr Motley had all sorts of clocks and little watchmakers lathes.”

Following the trail, Ironbridge Gorge Museum had told us that they were given the clock by Mrs Motley in 1970, which was before the museum opened to the public.

Fast forward to Roy Lane's mission to find the clock, and it being eventually tracked down to the stores at the museum. As the museum had no reason to reassemble it, the bells, mechanism, and clock face were stored separately.

It was actually one of three clocks in the store at Blists Hill, so it fell to Roy to correctly identify which one was Broseley's.

Found you at last... Members of the "Bring the clock back to Broseley" group inspect the rediscovered clock at Blists Hill.

As there seems to have been some subsequent doubt over whether the clock brought back from Blists Hill to Broseley was actually the original town hall clock, you'll have to look at our photos and make your own minds up.

Information from the time of the town hall's demolition points to the clock being blacksmith-made and having originally been intended for the "red church" at Jackfield.

Broseley does have a public clock nowadays. It hangs on Victoria Hall, and was put up in memory of Roy Lane.

Some accounts describe it as a "replica" of the town hall clock. In fact far from being a replica it is much smaller, much more modern, and basically nothing at all like the clock Roy had fought to bring back to Broseley.