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Margate jubilee clocktower timeball restored by local civic society appeal and 'opened' by Lord Admiral Boyce, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports

By Peter Barnett
Lord Admiral Boyce, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, at the restoration of the Margate jubilee clocktower timeball

by Peter Barnett

The restored copper timeball ensures that Margate’s landmark seafront clocktower is time-perfect.

The device on the tower, which commemorates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and was officially opened on her 70th birthday on May 24, 1889, was raised daily until 1920.

Margate Civic Society has now raised funds from the public to restore the attraction and commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

Admiral The Lord Boyce, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, assisted by the Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and Senior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Jonathan Betts, marked the occasion on Saturday. They were joined by town mayor Cllr John Edwards, Margate Civic Society president Ralph Handscomb and other civic dignitaries, following a parade led by Birchington Silver Band.

The mechanism is now computerised and was installed by the Cumbria Clock Company, the country’s premier Public Clock specialists (Big Ben and Hampton Court Palace among their clients.) The Time Ball Drop will now be daily at 1pm, precisely and indefinitely.

Griff Rhys Jones, president of Civic Voice, who visited the clocktower last summer, saluted Margate Civic Society’s £16,000 appeal campaign to restore the timeball.

He said: “This is exactly the sort of project that warms the cockles of my heart and sets the blood stirring in my veins. It’s not a small thing. It’s a big gesture, and it shows that local civic societies are not just about protesting and complaining. I salute Margate Civic Society.”

Society president Mr Handscomb thanked everyone who supported the appeal and added: “This has been a true community effort and without the help of local people, we could not have completed what has been our biggest project ever undertaken.”

Dr Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, said: “I encourage individuals across England to take inspiration from Margate Civic Society and consider undertaking a similar project. Our local heritage helps to tell the story of who we are. Whether it is restoring a town clock or a war memorial, these types of projects are a visual demonstration of people saying ‘I care about where I live’.”

Meanwhile local brewer Gadds celebrated by creating a new brew, Timeball Ale, which is available in the town.

For more pictures, see next week's KM Thanet Extra

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