Shrewsbury all at sea with "invisible" clock

By Toby Neal | Nostalgia | Published:

If you want the time in Shrewsbury, all you have to do is take a peek at Benbow.

You may not realise it, but Benbow is, or at least was, the name for the clock at Mardol on the big clock tower above the county town's market hall.

The name was chosen in a "Name the Clock" contest organised by the Shrewsbury Chronicle as the final touches were being put to the clock tower in 1965.

Winning the two-guinea prize for coming up with the name was a blind man, 84-year-old John Henry Owen, of Berwick Road, Coton Hill.

Mr Owen, a retired railway official and local government officer, said: "This is wonderful. I never thought I would win. I don't know quite what the clock tower looks like, but I've had it described to me."

In awarding him the prize the paper said: "We chose the name because it combined with Big Ben and the Great Bell of Bow to produce Benbow - the old Shrewsbury-born 17th century seadog.

"There were several other entries along this line, but Mr Owen's was the only one with just the single word."

There were over 200 entries, and many suggested naming the clock after Winston Churchill, who had died at the beginning of 1965.

Among other suggestions were Bold Arthur, after Shrewsbury Town's player-manager Arthur Rowley, while a nine-year-old from Mount Pleasant Road who gave her name as "Marilyn Dingle," plumped for Percy, no doubt to honour Shrewsbury's parks superintendent Percy Thrower.


Mrs Sheila Hart, of Mytton Grove, wrote in to say: "Being a woman, may I suggest a female name for the clock - Great Sal of Shrewsbury."

Trentham's Ticker and Trentham Times were also put forward - presumably there was some connection with the Trentham name - while The Proud Salopian and variations on that theme were quite popular.

The Chronicle Clock was another idea, while a Mrs M E Grafton of Upper Astley had in mind that the clock high on top of the tower would be safe from criminal damage when she put forward Wuthering Heights From Vandalism.

Sir Offley Wakeman, Striking Sabrina, Big Clanger, and Frank's Dial (after the Mayor, Alderman Frank Ellis) were just some of the other suggestions.


Did the name Benbow - it honoured Shrewsbury naval hero Admiral Benbow - catch on? Perhaps some readers with memories of Shrewsbury in the 1960s can let us know.

It was not long, however, before there were complaints about Benbow from town councillors. They said that while it was clearly visible at night, it could not be seen during the day.

Councillor W. Reade told a council meeting: "I'm very disappointed in the market clock. You can stand on the Welsh Bridge and you cannot see the clock or the definitions. It's just useless." Councillor Alan Laurie also said it was not so clear during the day.

Alderman J.M. West said: "I could see the clock tonight perfectly well. One side was 6.25 and the other was 20 to 11."

Councillor Percy Bateman, the markets and fairs committee chairman, said the developers were "looking into this matter."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.


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