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Visiting the Clock Tower, Hay-on-Wye, Wales: structure dating from 1884 in this Mid-Wales market town

Updated on April 2, 2012
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Clock tower, Hay-on-Wye
Clock tower, Hay-on-Wye | Source
Map location of Powys, Wales
Map location of Powys, Wales | Source

The church tower that wasn't

Located at the intersection of Broad Street and Lion Street, this fine structure in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye (Welsh: Y Gelli ), near the border with England (Welsh: Lloegr ) dates from 1884.

Some history and features

Interestingly, the structure closely resembles the clock tower at Knighton (Welsh: Tref-y-clawdd ), Wales, situated about 36 kilometres north of Hay-on-Wye, situated in Powys, Wales (Welsh: Cymru ).

The tower is executed in High Victorian Gothic. This style was popularized by John Ruskin (1819-1900) and is characterized by the use of materials of varying elements, often in more than one colour, and by typical, pointed features (1).

The architect responsible was J. C Haddon. The tower incorporates a bellcote, topped by roofing in the shape of a pyramid.

It is interesting also that the origin of this tower was found in plans by a Captain Brown, who thought that the local parish church needed a clock tower. He purposely left a legacy for this proposed tower, and for other works. After his passing, the local authorities were pleased to use his money for a clock tower in the Downtown area of Hay-on-Wye. So, up went the tower with a flourish; meanwhile the parish church itself — with the thoughtful Captain 'safely' deceased — never actually seemed to get around to acquiring its promised clock tower.

So what does all this signify? The stark primacy of the temporal over the 'spiritual'? The ingenious flexibility of Victorian applications of trustee law? Municipal flair at out-manoeuvring the ecclesiastical? The redundancy of nostalgia for a past lack of financial transparency? In any case, despite their affectations, I think it would be fair to say that our Victorian forebears were every bit as grimly tough-minded about money as many people are today. Money talks, money silences and money diverts... .

Thus for well over a century, the clock tower has been a familiar landmark in Hay-on-Wye. (But whatever happened to the wishes of the deceased Captain?)

April 2, 2012


(1) Among famous examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture is St Pancras Railroad Station, London, England.

Also worth seeing

In Hay-on-Wye itself, this town's world renowned bookstores, about which I have elsewhere written, are haunts for avid bookworms who come from far and wide. Its castle adds to the town's sense of long and complex history. 19th century almshouses display an interesting, commemorative plaque.

Cusop (distance: 0.6 kilometres), with an interesting, old church and churchyard, is situated in neighbouring Herefordshire, England, to which a bridge crosses over the river.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 247 kilometres from Hay-on-Wye. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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