Eastgate Clock Chester
The Eastgate Clock Tower is more than just a time-keeping device. It is a symbol of history, heritage, and architectural brilliance that has stood the test of time in the city of Chester, England.
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The Setting: Chester's Historic Eastgate
Chester, a city etched in history, is home to the Eastgate Clock Tower. The Eastgate, which the clock tower crowns, marks the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.
The original Roman gateway, or 'Porta Principia Sinistra', was originally topped by a wooden tower, later replaced by a stone one in the second century A.D.
The Roman Era and Beyond
Chester was founded as a Roman fortress and town, known as Deva Victrix around AD 74 or 75. The fortress was a rectangular structure with rounded corners, with a gate on each side.
The eastern gate, our present-day Eastgate, survived through the centuries. Around 100 A.D., the fortress's defences were fortified with a sandstone wall, and the gates and their towers, including the Eastgate, were rebuilt in stone.
A statue of the Roman god Mars once adorned the centre of the Roman Eastgate, a replica of which can be viewed at the Grosvenor Museum.
The Medieval Times
In 907, the Saxon kings of Wessex refounded Chester as a burh, a fortified settlement. The Roman Eastgate, most likely still in existence, was replaced in the medieval era by a design possibly influenced by Caernarvon Castle.
The new design consisted of a tall rectangular tower with octagonal corner turrets and lower towers with octagonal turrets on the sides. A portion of the medieval northern flanking turret was uncovered during excavations in 1971, which was made of cream-coloured sandstone.
The Georgian Era
By the 18th century, Chester's city walls no longer served defensive purposes and were converted into walkways. The medieval gateways, which had become an obstruction to the city's traffic, were replaced by wider arched gateways.
The current gateway, a three-arched red sandstone structure carrying the city walls' walkway over the street, dates back to 1768.
The Birth of the Eastgate Clock Tower
In 1899, an elaborate clock was added to the top of the Eastgate to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee two years earlier. The clock tower, designed by the renowned Chester architect John Douglas, was a fitting crown to the historic Eastgate.
The wrought iron for the tower was sourced from James Swindley of Handbridge, Douglas's cousin.
The Clock Tower's Design
The clock tower rests on openwork iron pylons, with a clock face on all four sides, and a copper ogee cupola.
The clock's unique design and the historic significance of its location have made it a well-known landmark in Chester and one of the most photographed clocks in England, second only to Big Ben.
The Clock Mechanism
The original clock mechanism was manufactured and installed by JB Joyce & Company in 1899. The clock has four, 4ft 6-inch dials that were originally gas-lit, but are now powered by electricity.
The clock includes a battery backup and a computer chip that ensures precise timekeeping. The clock, initially designed with an additional wheel in the train to shorten the weight drop, now uses a pinwheel escapement with 48 pins.
The Eastgate Clock Tower Today
Today, the Eastgate Clock Tower stands as a Grade I listed building and one of Chester's most iconic landmarks.
The clock tower, accessible from Eastgate Street by staircases on either side of the road next to the arch, overlooks Eastgate Street and is close to several tourist attractions, including the Grosvenor Hotel, Chester Cathedral, and the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
Chester Eastgate Clock, 45 Eastgate Street, Chester, CH1 1LR
The Eastgate Clock Tower is indeed much more than a clock; it is a reminder of the city's rich history, a symbol of its progress, and a testament to the architectural prowess of the past.
As the clock ticks away, the Eastgate Clock continues to narrate the story of Chester's evolution through time.