Thursday, 21 February 2013

Big Clock Tower Tour

The Iconic, Art Deco Guildhall

When civic chiefs decided to open a new museum in Southampton, it was frequently portrayed as a tribute to the Titanic. This tragic catastrophe had a massive effect on the city due to the large number of workers from the city that lost their lives in the shipwreck.
The Iconic, Sea City Museum
Although the new venue does devote lots of space to the fascination that surrounds the disaster, it’s good to see that the displays also truly celebrate the city’s ancient and modern relationship with the Solent & Southampton Water, hence the Sea City moniker. We had a good time when we visited and the children enjoyed themselves as much as the adults. It was also nice to get inside our beautiful Art Deco civic building again.
The Iconic, Art Deco Clock Tower
While nosing around I spotted a leaflet proclaiming tours of the Guildhall clock tower and made enquiries. This iconic tower can be seen from many places in town, even from the Cobden Bridge. I knew the kids would love this kind of thing as they both relish clambering up lighthouses when they get the opportunity.
The Iconic, Art Deco Lamp Post
Sadly, the indiscriminate regulations of the city council stipulated that children needed to be over the age of 12, even though the trip was no more dangerous than ascending stairs in a house and far less risky than tree climbing. These are activities that both our kids are more than capable of performing without incident, although they do often seem curiously reluctant to climb the wooden hill to Bedfordshire… 
The Iconic, Art Deco Spiral Staircase
After an inexplicably comprehensive health and safety monologue, and an interesting talk about the history of the building itself, you ascend the tower, one floor at a time, via several sets of offset iron spiral staircases.
The Iconic, Art Deco Clock Face
Eventually you reach the clock… Well, actually it’s all electric now and you couldn’t see the original clockwork mechanism because it’s all hidden in a wooden shed that Andy, our guide, did not have access to.
The Iconic, Big Bells
On the floor above the clock you can see the bells that chime out, Oh God our Help in Ages Past at midday; they are duly huge. From the bell room I was hoping to be able to take some panoramic photos of the city and I did manage a few but my attempts were hindered by further health and safety obstacles.
The Iconic, St. Mary's Football Stadium
Rusty metal grills had been fixed over all available openings and I had to press my camera into inch square holes and hope for the best.
The Iconic, Southampton Docks
After a talk about the bells we had to descend from our chilly eyrie, all the way back down to the Sea City museum. I did enjoy the visit, and the panoramic view gives a very different perspective on our proud city but a few simple changes would have made the whole experience far better…
The Iconic, Oceanographic Institue
1.       My children are currently 7 and 9 they would have very easily and safely coped with the climb and enjoyed this tour very much. 12 seems a completely arbitrary age to allow visits from. Trinity house have a simple height limit that children hit about age 6. Allowing children to attend this tour would be a fun way to improve their local historic and geographic knowledge. It might even enhance their sense of civic pride.
The Iconic, Geothermal Heating Plant (left of picture)
2.       The original mechanical clock should be on display, this is a missed opportunity and I would have loved to see it. I’m sure the others would have enjoyed this too; it is a large part of the reason for attending the tour.
The Iconic, Art Deco Staircase (again)
3.       Removable shutters should be available at the top of the tower to allow panoramic photography. If there is a danger of dropping cameras, netting or shelving could be fitted below or a simple sign, warning people not to hold items outside. Alternatively, at the very least, clean(able) windows should be fitted. Even periscopes / telescopes could be used to take photos through.
Cormorants on the Itchen
(I spotted them on the way home from the Iconic Boadwalk Cycle Path)


  1. you spelt Cormorants wrong. The Cormorants bit is the best bit of a walk (or whatever birds you see)! Loving the blog x Eleanor (the Birding In The Garden Woodcock) read the blog!

  2. Good spot!
    Spelling never was my strongest suit.
    Your Blog is going from strength to strength btw.