The demolition of the highly popular local landmark Crewe town clock ‘Big Bill’ was finally completed in 2020, much to the annoyance of lots of local people who fondly look upon the 1950’s structure as part of their memories of growing up in the town mostly known for the railway industry.
In 1956 the tower, clock and bells cost a total of £11,950. That is approximately £280,000 in today’s money.
Big Bill dominated the skies for over 60 years and was a part of life for thousands of people since 1956, it was visible to many people arriving in and leaving the town from Crewe station for decades.
When the clock was originally completed it had dark blue faces.
Local rumour says that staff from Crewe railway station and Crewe works employees struggled to read the time on the clock being so far away so the 2.4 metre in diameter faces were changed to white in the late 1970’s, we are sure that those born after the face change would have loved to seen the old faces in all their glory.
Many children and adults have passed through our town in the shadow of Big Bill looming over us as we went about our daily lives.
The Crewe News were lucky enough to be allowed to visit the much loved clock and climb up to the top on November 13th 2013.
We arrived at 10.30am for a chat with a member of Crewe town council and were then accompanied during the full climb to the top.
We had to be very quick to progress past the level below the faces, this level was where the bells hung and we were told it would be very loud if they struck as we were going past them so we decided to heed the warning and wait until Bill had chimed 10.45am.
We were amazed to see the original blue glass that was removed all those years ago, the pieces were piled up on the level at shop roof height, it was definitely a privilege to see the original glass having never seen it, we were were born just as the blue was taken away and replaced to the familiar white colour as it was when the people of Crewe finally said their goodbyes.
After a strenuous climb we reached the level where the 5 bells hung, there were four small bells that chimed the quarter hours and also a large 1.1 tonne bell called ‘Big Bill’ in the centre, it was the largest of the 5 bells and had the most important job of all, chiming on the hour.
The face level was very bright inside, it was strange to see the four back to front clocks having being used to seeing them the right way round from ground level height.
The hour of 11am crept up on us we heard a huge click from the clock mechanism as the hour hand reached 12, instantly the four smaller bells started to chime across Crewe.
It was a wonderful experience to hear close up, the smaller bells stopped and we stood waiting in anticipation for Big Bill to ring. When Bill chimed we could feel the floor shake 11 times, it was very loud but thrilling none the less.
After the excitement of the chimes we then carried on up the ladder past the clock faces and ventured out of the trapdoor onto the roof where the view was astounding.
We feel lucky to be two of just a few members of the public that have been allowed to make the journey upwards and see the clock the way most people haven’t had the chance to experience.
Parts of the clock were eventually salvaged and taken to Crewe heritage centre, in there are four clock faces measuring 2.4 metre in diameter, five bells including the 1.1 tonne ‘Big Bill,’ the clock mechanism and surviving glass from two former blue faces.
Thank you once again to Crewe Town Council for granting us the opportunity of a once in a lifetime experience in our visit to Crewe Town clock so we could bring the pictures to the people of the town in memory of a landmark that will live on forever in their hearts.
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