Hopes that Norwich's Gurney Clock could go on show to public again

The Gurney Clock

The Gurney Clock - Credit: Archant

After more than seven years in storage, discussions are under way which could see Norwich's remarkable Gurney Clock put back on public display.

Considered among the most accurate mechanical clocks in the world, the timepiece has not been seen by the public since it was taken out of the Castle Mall in 2015.

Gurney Clock

The Gurney Clock was moved to Castle Mall - Credit: Archant

But council bosses have announced they are in talks over it going back on show - with the location where the Gurney family had their flagship bank a potential destination.

The Gurney Clock was commissioned for the city in 1974, to celebrate 200 years of Gurney's Bank, now Barclays, which had its home on Bank Plain until 2003.

After spells in Chapelfield Gardens and Castle Mall, the clock was moved into storage in 2015.

But Norwich City Council has confirmed it is in discussions with 'key partners', including Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), the new owners of the Grade II listed former banking hall in Bank Plain.

The former Open venue on Bank Plain.

Norwich University of the Arts is to expand into the former Open venue on Bank Plain. - Credit: Andi Sapey

A spokesperson for Norwich City Council said: “During Covid we had to halt our discussions on how we could potentially bring the Gurney Clock out of storage and get it back on display again in a suitable location.

“Thankfully we’ve now got some breathing space to reconsider our options.

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"We’re currently talking with some key partners in the city about how they may be able to help us get the clock out of storage, restored and returned to a public space for everyone to enjoy.

“The Gurney Clock has its own story to tell about particular aspects of Norwich’s rich history.

"As the proud owners and guardians of the clock we want to find a way to rekindle that bit of our history so that others can enjoy it too.” 

NUA recently took over the Bank Plain building, which has been empty after the OPEN Youth Trust, based there for 15 years, went into liquidation in April 2020.

NUA vice-chancellor Professor Simon Ofield-Kerr

NUA vice-chancellor Professor Simon Ofield-Kerr - Credit: Andi Sapey

Simon Ofield-Kerr, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts, confirmed: "‘We are consulting with the city council as we begin the process of planning the future 20 Bank Plain.

"They have mentioned to us that they are looking to re-home the Gurney Clock.

"We are still in the very early stages of planning but are very committed to exploring this possibility further, and include it in the discussions and consultations as we move forward."


About the Gurney Clock

Master clockmaker Martin Burgess spent more than a decade making the £250,000 clock, which featured a castle and a golden lion automaton.

Martin Burgess makes a precise adjustment to the Gurney clock

Martin Burgess makes a precise adjustment to the Gurney clock - Credit: Archant Library

On the hour, bronze balls travelled down a track to a set of scales and into the castle.

The Gurney Clock in Norwich

The Gurney Clock pictured in 1987 - Credit: Archant

Burgess based the clock's workings on the work of 18th century John Harrison’s time-keeping technology.

It was initially installed in Chapelfield Gardens in 1987, but became a target for vandals.

The Gurney Clock, Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich

The Gurney Clock when it was in Chapelfield Gardens - Credit: Archant

It was moved to Castle Mall in 1998, after civic watchdog the Norwich Society campaigned to get it moved and restored.

When the Mall was revamped in 2015 it was moved into storage, where it has remained.

Simon Michlmayr with the lion from the Gurney Clock

Horologist Simon Michlmayr with the lion from the Gurney Clock - Credit: Archant Library

Barry Howell, current chairman of the Norwich Society, said: "The society would support re-installation of the Gurney Clock for public view, given its importance as one of the most accurate mechanical clocks ever made."