Fringe Box



Iconic Guildhall Clock to Be Sold – Facsimile to Replace It in 2023

Published on: 1 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 31 Mar, 2022

The Guildhall Clock

Guildford’s iconic Guildhall clock is to be sold to an American company for £4.5 million.

A well-placed council source leaked the news to The Dragon ahead of the official announcement and a lead councillor has now confirmed it is true.

The original medieval clock and clock face, dated 1683, will be removed to be replaced next year by a replica made from aluminium and glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). The lighter replacement will considerably reduce critical stress on the building’s ancient timber frame, confirmed in recent maintenance work.

The original clock is to be sold to Joseph Key who owns American Atomic Clock (AAC) based in Colorado.  AAC provide clocks for satellite navigation systems and NASA.

Mr Key said: “Since I first visited Guildford as a child I’ve always wanted to own the old High Street clock and I’m so pleased that we will soon be able to display it at our theme park back in Colorado.”

As part of the deal, AAC will provide, free of charge, a modern, maintenance-free, solar-powered atomic clock, accurate to one-millionth of a second. It will be installed between the two clock faces.

The ancient movement in the Guildhall’s roof space, which has been in situ for centuries, will be exported to the USA as part of the sale.

According to the AAC owner, a secret bid by AAC to buy the Elizabeth Tower (known colloquially as “Big Ben”), at the Palace of Westminster for £50 million in 2002, was immediately rejected and since then his company have been looking for other antique clocks to build up their collection.

Cllr John Redpath

John Redpath GBC’s lead member for Economy said: “I know some will be disappointed but the sale couldn’t have come at a better time, first because of the council’s financial situation, we really need to get all we can from our assets, and second because the council’s clock winder, Tim Peace, will be retiring next year after 50 years of winding each week.”

The winding and fine adjustment is still necessary despite attempts to automate the Guildhall clock a decade ago which were only partially successful.

Mr Peace said: “I have enjoyed all the winding up over the years. But I suppose this is progress.”

The 16th-century Guildhall with its projecting clock is the most iconic of all Guildford’s landmarks.

Cllr Redpath added: “The stress on the old frame has become critical and it means that the old clock would have to have been removed in any case, to comply with Health and Safety rules.

“The money we receive will be invested. The income generated will be ring-fenced to go towards the important discretionary services we are currently struggling to provide.

“From the ground, the replacement clock will look little different.  But improved illumination will mean residents will be able to easily see what the time is at night.

“And it’ll be possible to change the colour of the dial’s illumination and even make it flash for special occasions such as Christmas Lights Switch On and the New Year celebrations.”

“The deal could not be made known while secret negotiations were underway as it was classified ‘commercial in confidence’ and needed to be completed speedily. I am afraid even some backbench councillors have not been made aware.”

It is understood because of the sale the replacement is made, the scaffolding currently in place will remain for about a year. The clock is to be, dismantled, packed and shipped to its new home in Colorado soon but its replacement is not due for delivery until May 2023.

Please check back. We intend to report on reactions to this story later.

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Responses to Iconic Guildhall Clock to Be Sold – Facsimile to Replace It in 2023

  1. Russell Morris Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:02 am

    I have heard it has actually already been resold on to Donald Trump and will be installed above the entrance to Trump Tower. The hours will be struck on the bell by an automaton golfer modelled on Trump but with an IQ.

  2. Jan Messinger Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:25 am

    Happy April Fools day to you too.

  3. Fiona White Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:35 am

    Remind me what the date is, please?

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:43 am

    You wicked, wicked Dragon…🤣🤣🤣

  5. Jules Cranwell Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:48 am

    And the date is? Good effort Dragon.😁

  6. Nicholas Bale Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 7:53 am

    Maybe this is a propitious day to sell the whole building and replace it with a new replica?

  7. Penelope Jenkins (Mrs) Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 8:17 am

    Money, money, money! The council’s ‘lead for Economy” selling our heritage. I smell one big rat!

    The clock winder may be retiring; so teach someone else. I am spitting teeth here.

    Encouraging the Americans to buy up our treasures. He has no right.

  8. Mark Insoll Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 8:55 am

    I never use it anyway.

  9. Peter P Cowl Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 9:16 am

    The clock is a gem, and contributes to making Guildford High Street one of the most beautiful streets in the world. I can’t believe they are throwing this wonderful asset and iconic tourist attraction away for money.

    Is there no one else in the work that can wind a clock? How about strengthening the building to withstand the load instead? This is our heritage. Do we want commercialism and technology to triumph over culture and magnificence?

  10. Harry Eve Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 9:58 am

    Now rumours that the deal includes exporting the granite setts to be laid on the old London Bridge in America have resurfaced.

    Members of the High Street Preservation Society, known locally as “Cobblers”, are investigating.

  11. John Lomas Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 10:08 am

    Stories published on a day such as this need to stretch the imagination in order to be effective.

    This one is so believable it might actually be true.

  12. Jenny Grove Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 10:14 am

    I clocked this one!

    Happy April Fools Day!

  13. Lisa Land Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 10:26 am

    I hope this is an April Fool’s day joke.

    This is so wrong that this is being sold and leaving England, this is an ancient relic and should be displayed in the UK not USA.

  14. J Holt Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 10:51 am

    I suggest we sell the GBC offices and let the councillors and staff work from tents in the Arlington Park and Ride. That would save money too.

    The clock belongs to the people of Guildford and is not there to be sold (“as family silver”) to bail out the council.

    • Amanda Creese Reply

      April 1, 2022 at 11:20 am


  15. Ross Manson Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 10:58 am

    My smartphone has a clock which is enough for me. Don’t understand why people get so uptight about these historical analogue clocks.

  16. Carol Wilson Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:01 am

    I hope this is an April Fool!

  17. Laurence Carr Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Must be an April Fool joke surely!

    Perhaps an LED clock as a replacement?

  18. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:05 am

    Ha! Ha! April 1st!

  19. Clive Hillyer Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:06 am

    This is great news, I understand some of the money from the £4.5 million will be used to install additional parking meters throughout Guildford. These will have the ability “shout out” if they “think” you have not put enough money in to fulfil your shopping time or if it feels that your car does not reach a sufficient standard to be parked in Guildford, in which case it will advise alternative parking options (perhaps Woking).

    A portion of the cash could also be used to project vibrant moving images from Guildford of old on the multitude of vacant shopfronts throughout Guildford, giving the impression of no vacant lots.

  20. Gina Gasson Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:46 am

    Very interesting article, thank you Dragon.

    It isn’t just the clock that gets wound up in Guildford is it?

  21. Gerald Bland Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 11:48 am

    The “off-market” disposal of this landmark heritage asset announced on April 1st has all the hallmarks, dare I say it, of an unpleasant ‘wind up’!

  22. Jane Hepburn Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 12:37 pm

    I heard it had been sold to China… Guildford will be immortalised in their already very comprehensive fake English village full of cobbled streets and tumbledown cottages.( )At 4 million it’s a snip… they got a bargain

  23. Francis Johnson Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Well done Cllr Redpath for exposing the council officers to more complaints and abuse from the public when they’re outraged at an article like this.

    At a time when the council are maxed out, the workload has been further increased to manage this rubbish – it’s a joke that’s too close to the bone given the financial state of the council.

    As an added benefit he has actively encouraged more comments that can further slate staff who are operating with reduced numbers and shockingly low morale – this is not the solution to improving the situation.

    As the portfolio holder for customer services, one would think he would know better and would choose to find ways to reduce the workload and therefore help the staff get back to residents quicker.

    • John Redpath Reply

      April 2, 2022 at 7:03 pm

      I made the council’s very professional and hard working customer service team aware of this April Fools joke and advised a special message for the answer system that day.

      So no additional work load should have resulted from cheering up the vast majority of Guildford residents with a bit of humour. It’s a shame you appear to have taken a less cheerful view on some light hearted relief.

      John Redpath is a R4GV borough councillor for Holy Trinity

    • John Phelps Reply

      April 2, 2022 at 9:02 pm

      How sad the world has become when people can’t have a bit of fun anymore. I would hate to live in the world Francis Johnson wants to live in.

  24. Bob McShee Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Perhaps we could also sell them our redundant toilets?

    Bob McShee is a R4GV borough councillor for Worplesdon.

  25. Andrew Rustell Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    Very good, Happy Aprils Fools’ day to you too. Although there’s a lot to be said for, “Don’t give Guildford Borough Council any ideas”.

    In another story, the council is to sanction the bulldozing and building of an eyesore in most of the historic town centre off North Street…oh, hang on, that’s not an April Fool, they’re really doing it!

  26. Keith Grubbay Reply

    April 1, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    This is an outrage! I don’t own a watch, don’t want to be tracked, and rely on the clock for my business. Even if it is out of action for a week, that is going to set me back. I’ve already lost one sale due to daylight saving, although to be honest he was after a horse anyway.

    Please reconsider. People come from all over to take in the sights of the great clock!

    Not amused!

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