Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower

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Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower
Old Joe.jpg
Old Joe, the University Clock Tower
General information
Status Listed Grade II
Type Campanile
Location University of Birmingham
Town or city Birmingham
Country England
Coordinates 52°27′00″N 1°55′51″W / 52.4499°N 1.9307°W / 52.4499; -1.9307Coordinates: 52°27′00″N 1°55′51″W / 52.4499°N 1.9307°W / 52.4499; -1.9307

The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower (grid reference SP048835), or simply Old Joe, is a campanile located in Chancellor's court at the University of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. It is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world,[1] although its actual height is the subject of some confusion. The university lists it as both 110 metres (361 ft)[2] and 99 metres (325 ft) tall,[3] whereas other sources state that it is 100 metres (328 ft) tall.[1][4]

The tower was built to commemorate Joseph Chamberlain, the first Chancellor of the University, although one of the original suggested names for the clock tower was the 'Poynting Tower', after one of the earliest professors at the University, Professor John Henry Poynting. The nicknames Old Joe, or simply The Clock Tower are used by the student population and local residents.

A prominent landmark in Birmingham, the grade II listed[5] tower can be seen for miles around the campus, and has become synonymous with the University itself. There is a superstition, taken seriously amongst some students of the University, that if they walk through the tower's archway when it chimes, they will fail their degree.

History[edit]

View from the tower, looking west, towards the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Designed as part of the initial phase of the Edgbaston campus by architects Aston Webb and Ingress Bell, the tower was constructed between 1900–1908, and stood at the centre of a semicircle of matching red brick buildings. The tower is modelled on the Torre del Mangia in Siena.[6] The original tower designs were amended due to Chamberlain's great admiration for the Italian city's campanile. On 1 October 1905, the Birmingham Post reported that Chamberlain had announced to the University Council an anonymous gift of £50,000 (the donor in fact was Sir Charles Holcroft). This anonymous gift was announced some two months later in the Birmingham Post as "to be intended for the erection of a tower in connection with the new buildings at Bournbrook at a cost estimated by the architects at £25,000. The tower, it was suggested, would be upwards of 300 ft (91.4 m) in height, and would not only form the main architectural feature of the University but would be useful in connection with the Physics Department and as a record tower.[7] In 1940, Sir Mark Oliphant used the tower for radar experiments.[citation needed]

The tower remained the tallest structure in Birmingham until 1969, when construction on the 152 m (498.7 ft) tall BT Tower was completed in the Jewellery Quarter area of the city. However, Old Joe is still one of the fifty tallest buildings in the UK.[4]

The asteroid 10515 Old Joe, discovered in 1989, is named in the clock tower's honour.[8]

Description[edit]

Another image of Old Joe

The base is solid concrete, 50 ft (15.2 m) square by 10 ft (3.0 m) thick, resting on bed rock 31 ft (9.4 m) below ground. Joyce of Whitchurch built the clock, the face of which is 5.25 m (17.2 ft) across, the largest bell weighs 13,619 pounds (6,177.5 kg)[9] with all the bells weighing 20 tons (18,150 kg); the minute hand is 4.1 m (13.5 ft) long, the hour hand is 2 ft (61 cm) across, the pendulum is 15 ft (4.6 m) long. The clock hands are made out of sheet copper. There are ten floors served by an electrical lift in the SW corner.[10] The tower was built from the inside, without scaffolding, up to the level of the balcony. It is built of Red Accrington brick with Darley Dale dressings and tapers from 29 ft (8.8 m) square to 23 ft (7.0 m) below the balcony.[11] Owing to its having been built from the inside it was not pointed and had to be pointed in 1914 and was subsequently repointed in 1957 and 1984-5. Its weight, solid brick corners linked by four courses of brick resists the overturning wind forces.

Carved in stone round the tower are the words:

This tower commemorates the founding of the university through the initiative and active encouragement of its first chancellor the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain

Old Joe is also similar to St Mark's Campanile in Venice, the latter serving as the inspiration for Sather Tower at University of California, Berkeley. David Lodge's novel Changing Places tells the story of exchange of professors between the universities of Rummidge and Euphoric State, Plotinus (thinly disguised fictional versions of Birmingham and Berkeley), which in the book both have replicas of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on campus.[12]

References[edit]

Interior view looking down from the 8th floor
  1. ^ a b "25 tallest clock towers/government structures/palaces". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. January 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  2. ^ "Campus tour booklet". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  3. ^ "Heritage trail: Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, completed 1909". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  4. ^ a b "Britain's tallest 100 buildings by height". Skyscraper News. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  5. ^ English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (217677)". Images of England. Retrieved 10 August 2008. 
  6. ^ Stephens, W.B. (1964). "Secular architecture". A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7. London: Oxford University Press. pp. 43–57. 
  7. ^ Cheesewright, 1975, p. 55
  8. ^ "10515 Old Joe (1989 UB3)". JPL Small-Body Database. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  9. ^ Great Bells of the British Isles, Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, accessed 28 May 2007
  10. ^ Cheesewright, 1975, p. 57
  11. ^ Braithwaite, 1987, p. 4
  12. ^ Showalter, Elaine (2005). Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and Its Discontents. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-19-928332-3. 
  • Foster, A. (2005). Birmingham (Pevsner Architectural Guides). London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10731-5. 
  • Cheesewright, M. (1975). Mirror to Mermaid. Birmingham: The University of Birmingham Press. ISBN 0-7044-0130-4. 
  • Braithwaite, L. (1987). University of Birmingham architectural trail. Birmingham: The University of Birmingham Press. ISBN 0-7044-0890-2. 

External links[edit]