Crewe Town And Its Buildings – Our Tour Of Big Bill

By Rach Griffiths

Crewe town reached its 175th birthday back in 2012 and The Crewe News are going to be featuring some of the towns buildings on our website starting today with probably the most prominent building in the Crewe skyline which is our beloved town clock.

Crewe's Big Bill

Source ©Memory Lane Crewe.
Big Bill under construction 1952

Big Bill as it is locally known, started its life in 1952 with the development of the town centre and has dominated the Crewe landscape for the last 61 years.
I was born in Leighton hospital in 1978 and have lived in the town all my life.
As a child when walking around the town I always wondered what the clock looked like inside and who looks after it and finally I have these questions answered, by kind permission of Cheshire East Council and Crewe Town Council I have been inside the clock today for a tour of it to show you all a part of Crewe you may not have thought about before.

We met up at Delamere house with Richard Jones from Cheshire East Council, Steve McQuade and Kevin Hickson from Crewe Town Council and then made our way across to the building that the clock stands on.
We had to climb some metal stairs to a shop roof and unlocked the entrance door that leads into the base of the clock.

The clock tower is split into 4 different levels, the bottom level at shop roof height was empty but bright inside as there is a window that gives you a view of the bus station.
To get higher up involves a lot of climbing as each section is accessed by vertical ladders.

We had to be quite prompt at making our way up to the very top as the clock was due to chime 10.15 very soon and none of us fancied climbing up past the bells when they were going off.

Crewe's Big BillWe set off climbing ladder number one up to the second level and there was quite a surprise waiting for us, on the floor of this room was the original blue glass that used to make up the face of the clock when it was first built.
We have no idea why this blue face was changed to white, we had a discussion about it and we all agreed maybe it was broken at some point or maybe a decision was made to change it to white for lighting purposes.

Maybe we will never have the answer but it was great to see some of the original faces as I had always thought the faces were originally black because of the old pictures from books about the town that I had seen.

 

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We then made our way up to the third level, this is the level where the bells are, they were a lot bigger than what I had imagined, there are four smaller bells and a larger one that hangs in the middle.
If you look at the outside of the clock you will notice a grill, this is where the bells hang, the grills are made of slate and you can spy through the gaps in them and have a great view of Delamere street.
This is the level when you first get to properly see outside of the tower and you get a real feel for the height you are at.

The next level is where the clock faces and mechanisms are, the walls are painted in white with a clock face set inside each one, in the middle of the room is a large wooden cupboard as big as a garden shed.
You have to make your way around the edges of the room to see each of the faces.
When you are standing in the room the bottom of a face is around 5 feet from the floor, it was quite strange to see the clock inside out, you could see the shadows of the fingers from outside and if you look carefully you can see them slowly moving.

By this time it was 10.14 and as I was stood directly over the bells I braced myself for when it happened.

DSCF6800The first thing you hear is a loud clunk noise as the mechanism activates and then there is a buzzing sound of the electrics inside.
The chimes rang out across the town but it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I was expecting it to be.
In fact I quite enjoyed it.

The others decided to go up another set of ladders and out onto the roof, to be honest I didn’t fancy it so I sat inside the face room waiting.

The view from the clock roof is amazing, you can see Mow Cop, Jodrell Bank, Beeston Castle and all the way over to Snowdon.
We were lucky weatherwise as it was a very clear day and the distance that you see was surprising.

 

Richard told me that the clock is maintained by Smith Of Derby, it is regularly serviced and these are the people that come out and fix things if there is a problem.
They look after over 5000 clocks all over the UK such as, Church Clocks, Cathedral Clocks and many other clocks that are located at public buildings both indoors and outdoors

It was then time to leave Big Bill and we had a few minutes to make our way safely back down and past those bells before they chimed again.
You cannot feel any movement when you are above the bells when they chime but you can feel a vibration when you are below them, we experienced this as we got back down to shop roof level before we left.

The inside of Big Bill was certainly a part of Crewe that I never imagined I’d ever see and I am grateful for being given the chance to visit the clock and take some great pictures for the people of the town to see.

Crewe Town Council are hoping to restore the flagpole and fly their new flag with pride.

**Update November 15th**
The town council have officially been granted permission to fly our new town flag from the clocks flag pole so keep your eyes peeled for its appearance.

A very big thanks goes to Richard Jones, Steve Mcquade and Kevin Hickson for their hospitality today and letting us experience something that not many people have.
It was definitely something to remember.

Have a look at our gallery of pictures from inside Big Bill and also the view from the top.
How many Crewe landmarks can you see?
If you have an idea of a building you would like us to investigate let us know on
editor@thecrewenews.co.uk

Crewe Town Council
Cheshire East Council

Story ©Rach Griffiths 2013
Pictures ©The Crewe News 2013