The School Clock
by Alex Bateman
There is one item in the school which although well known to most 'Old Gaytonians' is not always recalled in the fondest of ways the school clock. Usually after some misdemeanour or other, one would be told to go and stand under it to await, at the very least, an interview with the Headmaster, often followed by some form of punishment.
The clock was not, as some might think, an original or even particularly early feature of the school. When it was originally built in 1910, the façade of the school instead featured an opening circular window. There was a rumour that a clock was included in the architects original plans, and looking at the high position of the window, that is quite feasible, but whatever the case, none was included when the school was eventually completed. As Harrow County approached its 21st birthday in 1932, several suggestions were put forward to celebrate the event. The Mothers Sewing Party, who had provided funds for many school projects, including Scout equipment, and the Pavilion Fund, offered a Commemoration Electric Clock, and Scholarship.
(left) Section of a school photo from July 1911 showing the original found window at the top centre of the façade, and (right) the clock after being installed in the same location.
By March that year, sufficient money had been raised from sales of their work to cover the purchase and installation of the clock, which was supplied by Messrs. Stockall, Marples and Co. Ltd. Although the workings were electric, initial fitment was frustrated as the current available in the school was Direct (DC), but before long a change to Alternating Current (AC) was made, and everything completed by the end of the 1932 Spring Term. the total cost came to £49 15s 6d.
Originally, a mechanism was included of four lamps to illuminate the outside dial, while inside a mahogany surround was included, decorated by one of the Sewing Party.
The clock became a prominent feature of school life, as well as those living near to the school. Later on, a bench was fixed underneath it along the main landing, and many errant pupils found themselves sitting there, nervously awaiting their fate.
By the late 1980's the clock had fallen into disrepair, much to the disappointment of many in the Old Boys Association. Vice President Tony Rhoades, made an appeal in the summer 1998 newsletter for donations to restore it, and set a target figure of £800. The initial response was so good that thoughts turned to the renovation of the mahogany surround as well, and eventually more than 120 contributions were received, from such people as the last Head and Deputy Head of the school, and widows of old boys. A total of £1,820 was eventually collected, £1,200 of which went on the restoration, and on a maintenance contract for the following two years. In addition a commemorative plaque was also provided which read:-
"This clock was restored by generous individual donations from members of the Old Gaytonians Association, former pupils and staff of the original Harrow County School for Boys, on this site 1911 1975, to commemorate the birth of Harrow High School in September 1998"
(left) The inside face of the original clock and its mahogany surround after restoration, and (above) the commemorative plaque recording the event.
Sadly, despite the restoration, the clock has once again fallen into a non-working condition, although it is hoped that this will soon be rectified.
Alex Bateman, who wrote this article, is the Archivist of the Old Gaytonians Association. If you would like to comment or if you would like to see more items like this, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org