Restored Norwich Union clock returns ready to tick on for decades more

The restored Norwich Union clock back up on Surrey Street in Norwich.

The restored Norwich Union clock back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

It has faithfully kept time for the city for 70 years and after a major restoration the old Norwich Union clock is set to tick on for decades more.

Following weeks of work the iconic timepiece was hoisted back into place by a crane complete with a new mechanism and its gilded  decoration and unique shield designs resorted. 

The restored Norwich Union clock ready to be put back up on Surrey Street in Norwich.

The restored Norwich Union clock ready to be put back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

It was reattached to Bignold House in Surrey Street, which once belonged to the insurance giant’s estate 190 years before the company was rebranded as Aviva.

Since being removed in October it has been carefully restored to its former glory by family-run Michlmayr Clock and Watchmakers, based on Fletcher Way, in the north of the city.

Simon Michlmayr, from Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers.

Simon Michlmayr, from Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers, who restored the Norwich Union and helped put it back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Overseeing the clocks’ return, watchmaker Simon Michlmayr said: “It was badly in need of work. We last did it just over 20 years ago. 


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“Initially I thought we could just paint the outside but when we got it back to the workshop it was much worse than I thought. We had to blast it and paint it because the corrosion underneath the skin was much worse.

Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers getting the site ready to put the restored Norwich Union clock back up

Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers getting the site ready to put the restored Norwich Union clock back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

“But it is all good now and the paint processes we now have are much better than 20 years ago so it should be good to go for a few decades.”

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The timepiece, which was built in the 1950s, was originally part of a master system of clocks based in the main Norwich Union building which pulsed every clock so they all read the same time. 

The restored Norwich Union clock being lifted ready to be put back on Surrey Street in Norwich.

The restored Norwich Union clock being lifted ready to be put back on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

It is now electrically driven and over time it has been exposed to the elements, as well as pollution and dust in the atmosphere.

Jason Beckett, Aviva deputy group art curator, said: “Because Aviva is a 320-year-old company we have a lot of heritage items, painting and sculptures, but also antique clocks and we are responsible for looking after and maintaining them.

Jason Beckett, Deputy Art Curator for Aviva

Jason Beckett, Deputy Art Curator for Aviva, who was helping oversee the restored Norwich Union clock being put back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

"We recognise the Surrey Street clock is an important part of the city’s heritage.

“Everyone who lives in Norwich is fond of it and being so near to the bus station it is seen by a lot of people who look for the time.”

Mr Michlmayr said: “All the public work we do is special but doing work is extra special. We’d rather do it here than anywhere else because it means more.”

The restored Norwich Union clock back up on Surrey Street in Norwich.

The restored Norwich Union clock back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers putting the final touches on the restored Norwich Union clock which ha

Michlmayr Clock & Watchmakers putting the final touches on the restored Norwich Union clock which has been put back up on Surrey Street in Norwich. - Credit: Danielle Booden


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