Whimsy

Whimsy 3: two big hands

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Public clock, Corn Exchange, Corn Street, Bristol

Look carefully at this clockface and you will notice an anomaly: a little hand to tell the hour, and two big hands. How’s this come about?

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All Britain now runs to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) but before rapid public transport provided by the railways each town had its own Local Time, reliant on the sun crossing the sky from east to west (solar time). Bristol was a little over ten minutes after London, and train passengers from the capital would arrive ten minutes before expected, sometimes at great inconvenience and irritation.

Here was Bristol’s solution: a public clock that showed the minutes past the hour for GMT and for Bristol time. This supposedly is the only clock in England to show this anachronism (the UK adopted GMT as standard in the 19th-century), and has been restored in recent years with red for GMT and black for local time.

So — the two big hands are minute hands…
And the third hand is not a second hand…

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12 thoughts on “Whimsy 3: two big hands

    1. Hi Alison, I’ve forgotten whether you posted a picture of this but I do remember your other items about Bristol and the exhibition you reported on. This is certainly a unique feature and it was only after I moved from Bristol that I discovered the reasons it had three hands.

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  1. That’s absolutely fantastic, both the clock itself, the reasons for its unusual appearance, and indeed the super restoration job. Great post.
    Have to say, dying to get to Bristol one day, everything I hear about it appeals to me (well, except the slave trade obviously) But I went to a wonderful lecture by an English architectural historian here in Dublin, 5-6 months back (part of an all-day symposium on 18th century Georgian, in Trinity College here) and the lecture on the Clifton area of Bristol was amazing. Such spectacular buildings, and setting. I’m sure Bristol has its problems, like any city, but overall, it looks like a wonderful city all round. Will certainly visit one day.

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