Clock House withstands the test of time

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This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a look at Clock House landmark in Queens Road.

He writes. No 147 at the top end of Queens Road, on the corner of Waterworks Road, (named after the corporation waterworks that were there in the early 19th century) stands a remarkable landmark. The Clock House, named after the clock on its corner aspect and boasting a statue bearing a torch below the clock, appears little changed in the last 130 years.

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The shop had been a grocer’s shop in various ownerships and appears to have acquired its name some time before the first war, long after the clock was installed when it was recorded as a wine and spirit merchant and traded as such until the beginning of the 1960’s after which it became ‘The lighting Centre’.

The extent of ‘The Clock House’ as an enterprise is best described following a four month redevelopment in what we today call an ‘advertorial’ in the Hastings Observer during December 1935 when it featured the “Clock House Transformed” and continues with an article “How the Business has Progressed. Half a million bottles of beer every year-just think of it!

“The average number dealt with annually by the Clock House (Hastings), Ltd., has easily exceeded this figure in the past year to say nothing of the thousands of bottles of wines and spirits handled. The Clock House has just emerged from four months in the builders’ hands during which time it has been completely transformed into one of the most artistic and modern shops in the town in addition to being considerably enlarged.

“The decision to carry out the improvements was made in rather unusual circumstances Managing Director, Mr. R. Dawson, told an Observer reporter. “About a year ago,” he said, “I attended a lecture given by a borough official to local tradesmen. He suggested that they should ‘co-operate in improving the appearance of the town by making their shop front more artistic. So I decided to take this advice, and had the alterations, which have just been completed, put in hand’ The shop-front, which is beautifully finished with teak and granite consists of three large and airy windows, taking in 146 and 147, Queen’s-road.

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“Cellars have been run under these two buildings, and also under 2, Waterworks Road and these have been linked up, so that a large stock of goods can be stored on the premises and the customer’s every need met instantly.

“A system of central heating ensures that the shop and cellars are kept at an even temperature day and night, thus preserving the wines and spirits in the best of condition and guarding against all possibility of deterioration.

“The company keeps about 25 men in permanent employment which contrasts strikingly with the state of the business when Mr. Dawson took it over some 25 years ago. Then all the business could be conducted by himself, with the assistance of only one lad.

“With each year since then, however, there has been a substantial increase in the business, and five years ago Mr Dawson formed the present company, taking in his two sons as directors. Now the company possesses a fleet of five delivery motors and has three travellers on the road covering a radius of about 25 miles around the shop and taking in Rye, Tenterden, Hawkhurst, Eastbourne, Polegate and Dallington.

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“It has been Mr. Dawson’s constant endeavour as the business progressed, to provide additional local employment and with this object in view, he has established his own bottling plant which deals with an average 10,800 bottles of beer alone each week and keeps a number of men employed in work which was previously carried on outside the town.

“Entirely new and modern machinery has recently been installed, including washing plant, which thoroughly cleans and sterilises all bottles, both inside and outside before they are filled, cold storage conveyers and carbonating plant.

“Watching the filling of the bottles is extremely fascinating, for the process, from the washing to the finished, stoppered article, is a continuous one, going on at a rate of anything up to 2,000 an hour. The usual speed is 1240.

“The Clock House has been fitted throughout with an inter-telephones system, with a separate switchboard, and there are now two lines. Just ring Hastings 3170.”

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All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series - contact him - ion@1066.net or tel 01424 437468 and there’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk

Captions:

Pick 1885.

The ‘Clock House’ evolved from a grocery and off licence in shown here in 1885, The clock that gave the building its name can be seen. At this time the business had not expanded into 146 Queens Road or 2 Waterworks Road.

Clock House bill.

This bill from “The Clock House Stores” dated 1920 shows that they were selling Leney’s Dover Ales – 4/- (20p) and 1/- (5p) deposit on the bottles. It may have been Leney’s ales that the Clock House bottled under its own label.

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Butler & Philips 1935.

In 1935 you could buy your new car from Butler and Phillips at 161 and 162 Queens Road. The site was levelled after the demise of the Gas Works and now forms part of Morrisons Car Park. BSA are better known for motorcycles but they did make cars and three-wheelers in the 1930’s. The initials stand for ‘Birmingham Small Arms’ – hence their logo of three rifles. Lanchester were absorbed by Daimler and continued to make cars until the early 1950’s.

Butler & Philips 1936.

It appears that Bertram Mills’ circus visited Hastings in 1936 and Butler & Phillips premises can be seen next to Butler’s Radio at No 163, but what was Roadriding?

Clock House ad 1935.

In this 1935 advertisement for the Clock House at 147 Queens Road the premises had expanded into 146 Queens Road and the adjoining shop at 2 Waterworks Road. The interior of the warehouse on the opposite side of the road, now flattened and part of Morrisson’s car park, is also shown.

Guinness.

The Clock House bottled Guinness supplied in bulk, this was a usual practice for Guinness and the list of firms that bottled their product probably runs into hundreds.

Tapner 1900.

Tapners, Undertakers, House Furnishers, removers etc. traded from various addresses in Queens Road, in 1920 it was at no 20 but their steam factory was in Waterworks Road and is still there today.

Light Ale.

The Clock House wasn’t a brewer but it was a bottler for other brewers, there’s no indication whose beer they bottled but it may have been Leney’s of Dover for whom they were an agent.

Tapner fire 1 and Tapner fire 2.

Two views of what may have been the town’s biggest-ever fire that took place on January 4th 1909 in the five-storey block of buildings occupied by Messrs Holdoway and Tapner, upholsterers, and Messrs Simmonds and Co, cabinet makers, builders and contractors in Waterworks Road. The fire took eight hours to control and caused £7,000 of damage (around £750,000 at today’s values). Notice the telegraph pole carrying the telephone wires silhouetted against the fire, once a common part of yesterday’s street scene.

Wheeler 1937.

Number 158 Queens Road, now ‘The Appliance Centre’ and isolated from the rest of its terrace with the loss of No’s 155/6/7 to enemy action was selling and maintaining motorcycles in 1937.

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