Towering town centre clock that was a little bit rubbish


It stood like a sentinel in Queens Square for nine years; tall, imposing – and just a little bit rubbish.

It’s chimes didn’t work, the little veteran cars didn’t go round and round like they were supposed to, and the grumpy old council called it “an embarrassment”.

Crawley History: Queens Square clock ENGSUS00120131004151306

Crawley History: Queens Square clock ENGSUS00120131004151306

But once it was gone, we didn’t half miss the clock-on-stilts.

A trawl through the murky depths of the Observer archives turned up this wonderful picture of John Drew overseeing the moving of the clock to his farm in Redhill – where it still sits – in July 1975.

It had already been removed from Queens Square and had been hidden away on its side in Tilgate Park – presumably it was less of an embarrassment surrounded by trees.

The 27ft-tall clock had been a gift to Crawley from the Commission for the New Towns. It had a large compartment containing the works halfway up its stilts which were surrounded by glass panel pictures of Crawley and London scenes. The hands were copper.



Mr Drew told the Observer he had been trying to buy it for three years but other bids, including one from an American buyer, had been looked at first.

Mr A Lieberman had been keen to take the clock to Chicago but withdrew his bid because the transport costs would have been too high.

After the Redhill bid was accepted, Mr Drew’s son said: “We’re thrilled that we have been able to buy it. It would have been such a shame for the clock to have gone to America. It’s a shame the clock was ripped up in the first place. It’s a beautiful, artistic clock.”

Elsewhere in Crawley, an elephant turned up at the bowling alley.



Her name was Nellie – of course – and she was in town as part of Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus. Her speciality was throwing balls, and she was invited to bowl a couple during a Ten Pin Bowling Marathon at Crawley Bowl, in aid of the Crawley and Horley appeal for Help The Aged.

In November 1975, everyone was getting terribly excited about plans for a new road called the M25, which would later earn such nicknames as ‘the road to hell’, ‘the magic roundabout’ and ‘the biggest car park in the world’.

While sections of the road had already been built, the idea of a ring road around London was the stuff of dreams to drivers everywhere.

Of course, it’s easy to let’s do that.

One sentence in the Observer brought particularly loud snorts of derision.

It read: “The completed motorway will relive London of through traffic and provide easy access to all the major routes radiating from the capital.”

Our final picture was taken after the women of Woodall-Duckham had soundly thrashed their male colleagues at football, raising £60 towards the cost of a kidney machine in the process.

The match finished 11-6 to the women – but the men felt they had one teeny-weeny reason to cry foul.

Several of the spectators chose to watch the game from inside the women’s goal, ‘accidentally’ clearing some of the men’s shots from the goal line in the process.

Surely, though, if there had been a problem, referee Mike Solomon would have dealt with it!

At the end of the day, they may have been sick as parrots but the gents did really well to score six...

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