Clock Tower, Central

Clock tower

A clock tower is a tower built with one or more (often four) clock faces. The clock tower is usually part of a church or municipal building such as a town hall, but many clock towers are free-standing.

The mechanism inside the tower is known as a turret clock. It often marks the hour (and sometimes segments of an hour) by sounding large bells or chimes, sometimes playing simple musical phrases or tunes.


Some clock towers are famous landmarks. Five of the best-known are the clock tower which houses Big Ben (often itself colloquially referred to as Big Ben) of the Palace of Westminster in London, the Rajabai Tower in Mumbai, the Spasskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin, the Peace Tower in Ottawa, and the world's tallest 'free standing' clock tower; the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower at the University of Birmingham, England.

On New Year's Eve 2004 four 6.3-metre clock faces were added to the top of the Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science building in Warsaw, Poland making it the highest 4-faced clock tower in the world and the second highest clock tower in the world.. The NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Building 240 meters (787 feet) is 10 meters higher and is the highest clock tower in the world. The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower holds the record for the largest non-chiming four faced clock.


Although clock towers are today mostly admired for their aesthetics, they once served an important purpose. Before the middle of the twentieth century, most people did not have watches, and prior to the 18th century even home clocks were rare. The first clocks didn't have faces, but were solely striking clocks, which sounded bells to call the surrounding community to prayer. They were therefore placed in towers so the bells would be audible for a long distance. Clock towers were placed near the centers of towns and were often the tallest structures there. As clock towers became more common, the designers realized that a dial on the outside of the tower would allow the townspeople to read the time whenever they wanted.

The use of clock towers dates back to the antiquity. The earliest clock tower was the Tower of the Winds in Athens which featured nine sundials. In its interior, there was also a water clock (or clepsydra), driven by water coming down from the Acropolis. The first striking clock tower was constructed many centuries later in 1154 near the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, by the Arab engineer al-Kaysarani. The earliest clock tower in medieval Europe was the Salisbury cathedral clock in England, completed in 1306.

JB Joyce & Co claims to be the world's oldest tower clock maker (still in operation). The company began life in 1690 and still manufactures clocks not far from its original premises in Whitchurch, Shropshire. Today it is a part of the Smith of Derby Group, started in 1856, which claims to be the largest tower clock manufacturer in the world. The company has manufactured tower clocks for St Paul's Cathedral in London and the Shanghai Customs building in China.

Line (mains) synchronous tower clocks were introduced in the United States in the 1920's by Telechron, now Electric Time Company of Medfield, Massachusetts. Electric Time Company is now the largest tower clock manufacturer in the world.

List of Clock towers


North America

South America



See also


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