Clocks of Barnsley

It’s that time of year again when we will set our alarms to go off one hour earlier for the official start of British Summer Time. So thinking of this, our Collections Clerk Tracey Hebron takes a look at some of the times pieces here in Barnsley and in our Museum collections.


Cannon Hall sun dial

A white, square sun dial

This beautiful historic sundial, which was recently rediscovered as part of the Parks for People project at Cannon Hall is dated 1736. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Restoring the Glory, Revealing the Secrets’ project, the sundial was placed in the Walled Garden for all to enjoy. Before clocks were invented, people generally relied on the passage of the sun through the sky to tell the time, this evolved into the sundial, or shadow clock which consists of a flat plate and a gnomon (or stick) that casts a shadow on the plate. When the sundial is properly aligned it will tell the local solar time.

Town Hall clock

A black and white photo of of the town hall clock face with a man, engineer stood in front of it from the inside

The town hall clock with its four faces has kept time for Barnsley since 1933 in the 44 metres (144 ft) high central tower. The clock faces are round with white opaque diamond segmented glass, black numerals, and hands, with three gold roundels. All towns have benefited by having a central, easily seen time-piece. In many towns, this was often located in the tower of the parish church or like here in Barnsley in the Town Hall. The clock tower was originally left out of the town hall plans due to finance, however newspapers from Monday 11 July 1932 reported that as a result from an interview between the mayor at that time, Mr R J Plummer and the then secretary of Health Sir Arthur Robinson, it was agreed the addition of an ornament clock tower would be added to the plans. A loan and anonymous donation of £1,000 secured its build by Sir Arnold Thornely contractors. In 1953 it was reported that lightning hit one of the four faces of the clock.  

A drawing of the town hall without the additional tower and clock. The caption reads "From Moot Hall to Town Hall: Civic Romance through the centuries
The original plans for the town hall didn’t include the tower or a clock

Krakauer mantel clock

A mainly brown clock with decorations on each side of the clock face

This Edwardian mantle clock currently on display at Experience Barnsley Museum is beautifully made in a deep brown wood, with a round white clock face, black numerals and hands with a delicate bow design which showcases the Krakauer family’s skill, craft and legacy.

Jewish immigrant makers Soloman & Max Krakauer had a shop on Church Street in the early 20th century. Solomon and Henrietta Krakauer emigrated from Germany to Barnsley in 1891. Max, the Krakauer’s eldest son served in World War One against his native Germany, in the Army Medical Corp, ascending ranks from private to sergeant and awarded 3 medals. Max’s younger brother, Arthur emigrated to New York in 1897 becoming a linen trader with links to the Barnsley trade, back in Barnsley the family shop specialised in making clocks and jewellery. Domestic clocks like this first appeared in the 15th century when smaller mechanisms were created. 

A sepia photo showing a busy Church Street in the town centre. The Krakauer shop is in the foreground and above the entrance is a clock
The Krakauer shop on Church Street

New York pocket watch

A round pocket watch with a metallic chian

This round silver pocket watch with white face is currently on display at Experience Barnsley. In the 15th century, the spiral spring mechanism was created, replacing the long pendulum, this paved the way for the development of smaller watches. Only a few decades later in 1812, Abraham-Louis Breguet made the first known wristwatch for Queen Caroline Murat, Napoleon’s sister. It was attached to the wrist with a strap and many women began wearing them around their necks while men carried them on a chain attached to their back pocket.  The wristwatch and pocket watch slowly found its way into social life, and at the end of the 19th century, they had a firm place in fashion and convenience.

Decorative clock

 Liberty, pewter clock of Art Nouveau form with an enamelled dial. The main body curves in toward an over-hanging, squared top section. The dial has Roman numerals in black against a rose-gold painted background and a blue-green enamel disc in the centre. Clocks like this were very popular for mantelpieces and desks.

This beautiful pewter clock from Cannon Hall Museums decorative collection is dated from the 1900s and was designed under the ‘Tudric’ brand for Liberty & Co. ‘Tudric’ wares were a combination of Art Nouveau and Celtic styles. A clock like this was small and stylish so could be used on a mantlepiece, desk or bedside table, making it a popular product.  The clock has black roman numerals and a blue enamel face and is currently on display in the glass galleries at Cannon Hall Museum.

Clocking in clocks

A pine clocking in machine, with a white clock face and pendulum. The base has an insert for a piece of paper.

Experience Barnsley Museum is home to one of only three clocking-in clocks used by miners at Barnsley Main Colliery – the site of the Oaks Disaster. The clock was used in the mid-20th Century to mark the start and finish of the daily toil of thousands of miners in Barnsley. Originally made by Gledhill Brook, it is in excellent working condition; and was still in working use in the 1960s before being used as a decorative timepiece in the now demolished Barnsley Main Transport Office. It is widely believed that the first clocking in clock was invented in 1888 by American Willard Bundy, a jeweller based in Auburn, New York. This mechanical or electrical timepiece tracked the hours an employee worked and was used by the employer to calculate pay. 

Pigeon clock

A grey box with a small clock on the front and a carry handle on top

This pigeon clock currently on display at Experience Barnsley Museum was used and donated by a pigeon fancier from Barnsley. The British royal family began to keep pigeons in the late nineteenth century, and pigeon racing became a sport of the masses in the early 1900’s here in the UK. Pigeon racing is the sport of releasing trained homing pigeons in which they then return to their homes over a carefully measured distance. To measure the distance, an apparatus first built by Emery Van den Bossche in Belgium around 1885 became known as the pigeon clock. A rubber ring with a unique identification number would be attached to the bird’s leg before a race, the number was recorded and the clock started. When the bird returned, the owner would remove the ring, slot it into the clock and the time recorded. The time stamp would then be taken to the club so a fair system was in place for everyone competing.

Benj Harral clock and time ball

Coloured photo of the ring shop, there  are people in the foreground and work appears to be done on the road.
The Ring Shop in 1985, Eldon Street

Benjamin Harral’s on Eldon Street was a much-loved jewellery shop who became known for giving out a complimentary bread knifes to those who bought an engagement or wedding ring. founded in 1898, the shop was family-run for nearly 100 years and had other branches in Pontefract and Mexborough. The shop also sold grandfather clocks and other time pieces. As well as the large clock which sat above the premises, and remains. The shop had its very own golden time ball. Research uncovered by the Eldon Street High Street Heritage Zone recently revealed that the time ball was linked to the Eiffel Tower in Paris by wireless. It dropped at exactly 11am each day so local people could set their watches by it.  

Time for Wireless - correct time is received daily from the Eiffel Tower, Paris and is signalled to the public by the Time Ball in the Ring Shop front. Watch the golden ball drop at 11 o' clock each morning.

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