A landmark seen by many motorists travelling through Highbridge in the 1950’s, on their journey south, would have been the Victorian style clock erected in the centre of the road at the junction of Church Street and Market Street. (The Cornhill).
On March 17th 1897 a Committee was formed to decide on what should be done to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The decision was to purchase a clock that should be positioned at the Cornhill, it was to be designed by “Rainforths” of Bridgwater. The clock was completed by June 22nd, Jubilee day of that year 1897.
Little was changed on the clock, except for the lighting in the early days, it was oil, then gas and finally electric. For many years the clock was maintained and regulated by Mr. Robertson who was a watchmaker and repairer who had shop premises nearby at 6a Church Street. The clock dominated the towns’ main streets for sixty-seven years, until on the 8th March 1964, when it was hit and destroyed by a lorry.
It was replaced by a newly designed clock that was positioned between two bollards about a metre from where the original clock stood and nearer the centre of Market Street to provide more room for vehicles passing along Church Street. The clock was electric, had three faces and cost a total of £1200; on top of clock was the Urban District Councils Coat of Arms. When the clock was erected in 1965 a local paper stated, “There was some considerable interest and no little excitement”. It was stated that on various occasions the three faces of the clock each showed a different time and it became known locally as “Three Faced Liar”
The master clock had been installed in John Tyler (Highbridge) Ltd.
In 1972 the clock was re-sited on derelict ground approximately above the original Clyce lock gates. Later in June 1977 it was to become the centrepiece of “Jubilee Gardens” created to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee.
The ‘Town Clock’ has had a very chequered career and in its original form suffered a number of knocks. A lorry demolished it in 1964, but it has now come to our attention that it suffered a ‘knock’ prior to this, in 1963.
The story goes that a local ‘lad’ asleep in his bedroom, not too far from the Cornhill, was awoken by a noise, “tyres squealing” from the vicinity of the clock. Upon investigating, he found that car (Mark 1 Cortina) carrying two Chinese gentlemen had hit the clock with a sideways blow and they could not get out. They were trapped, the car suddenly burst into flames, he immediately fetch a fire extinguisher from the shop where he lived and aimed it under the bonnet from where the fire appeared to be coming. Another person arrived with some bolt cutters and chopped through the battery cables, this stopped the fire, which had obviously been electrical.
The Chinese gentlemen in the meantime were still trapped in the car. Eventually an ambulance, which had been summoned by our storyteller’s parents, arrived and took away the occupants of the car who were not, apparently, badly injured. The initial damage to the clock was caused by this incident, the final indignity came some time later when a lorry which had travelled down Church Street, hit the Clock and knocked it towards Tyler’s shop.
The consequences of this are that parts of the clock went missing and are now scattered around the area. Two of the Clock faces are in the possession of our narrator and he has an idea where the third is. A person in Mark has the ‘trap’ door from the base of the clock, through which a Mr. Robertson used to wind it.