HERITAGE: How much do you know about the restored clock on Hitchin High Street?

The H Samuel clock before its revamp

The H Samuel clock before its revamp - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin town centre building which has been graced with public clocks since the mid-19th century has been blessed with the return of its latest timepiece after restoration – but how much do we really know about the clock’s history and that of its forebears?

Hitchin Clock

Hitchin Clock - Credit: Archant

The fully restored H Samuel Clock, which has been mounted at 14/15 High Street this month, joins a long line of previous tickers dating back to the original 1851 James Walker clock.

The current mechanism had been hanging proudly above the former H Samuel jewellers shop until its closure last year, since its installation around 1984.

That was the year the firm took over the existing jewellery businesses of the James Walker Group, which had a branch located at the site from 1966 until the 1980s.

The clock is very much in the house style of the Samuel firm as it developed and grew from its origins in retail in the north west of England in the late 19th century.

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David Howlett of the Hitchin Historical Society explained: “Even though the clock itself is a relatively modern example it continues a long tradition of jewellers and watch makers advertising their wares with a large external timepiece.

“The James Walker Group’s activities in Hitchin date from the early 1950s when they acquired a watch and the jewellery business based a few doors down at 23 High Street.

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“This business had origins at least as far back as 1851 and was originally in the ownership of Robert Street, a prominent local businessman and arch-critic of the ineffectiveness of Hitchin’s local government!

“What we do know is that Street’s business certainly had a large clock fixed outside and this feature survived subsequent changes of ownership at 23 High Street including into the tenure of the James Walker Group.

“Fast forward more than 160 years later, as befits a town with a long and active history, it is a happy coincidence that 14/15 High Street was actually home to John Carter – himself a watchmaker!”

Following a combination of determined voluntary effort and key support from town businesses – including the Hitchin Historical Society, the late Scilla Douglas, town centre manager Keith Hoskins, BID ranger Ron Broadbent, signwriter Paul Myerscough and Haywood’s builders – it is heartening Hitchin’s H Samuel clock survives to tell the time to the people of Hitchin, even in a digital age, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come.

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