Hoddesdon Clock Tower
One of the most instantly recognisable features of Hoddesdon town centre is the Clock Tower, standing on the broad pavement where the High Street splits into Amwell Street and Burford Street. You might walk past without a glance, sit under its canopy or even check your watch by it, but the Clock Tower’s history goes back around nine centuries.
The Old Clock House
The Clock Tower has its origins in Hoddesdon’s old chapel. The town was in the unusual position of not being a parish in its own right, but split between the parishes of Amwell and Broxbourne — neither place as substantial. Although there was a proposal to create a parish of Hoddesdon during the Commonwealth, this didn’t finally happen until 1856.
The town had a chapel of ease at least as early as 1242, standing roughly where the Clock Tower now is, but by the end of the 17th century it had fallen out of use and was in a bad way. In 1700, a decision was made to sell one of the chapel’s bells in order to buy a clock, leading to a rhyme that was popular locally for a while:
Parson Davis and Farmer Lock
Sold their bell to buy a clock
A clock house was built to house the new clock, which was installed in 1705, while a room was also added for the ringer of the remaining bell, which continued to be rung for the curfew * well into the 19th century. In 1732, local brewer Robert Plomer built a new chapel, which eventually grew into the parish church of St Catherine and St Paul.
The New Clock House
In 1835, the clock house was demolished to make way for a replacement, which was funded by public subscription and included the present Clock Tower. A new clock was installed in 1870 to replace the original, which was said to be worn out.
The new clock house was informally referred to in the 19th century as the Town Hall and was used for vestry meetings and various other local meetings. It also housed two police cells until 1883, when a purpose-built police station was created, as well as serving as the base for the local fire engine.
During the 1960s, the extensive redevelopment of the land between Amwell Street and Burford Street to create the Tower Centre (now largely replaced by the Morrisons supermarket) included the demolition of most of the clock house, leaving the Clock Tower as the free-standing building it is today, surrounded by a canopy that was added in 2003.
The listing for the Clock Tower describes it as:
1835 by T Smith. Square clock tower. Yellow stock brick, stucco dressings. Three diminishing stages, moulded floor band and cornice. Middle stage with louvred belfry openings in recessed panels, top stage with clocks, those on E and W faces are original. Flattened pyramid copper roof with stone palmette finial.
* Although the term “curfew” is today associated with a ban on going out at night, it was originally a bell rung at 4 am and 8 pm to remind people to light or cover their hearth fires.