Middlesbrough Dock Clock

Middlesbrough Dock Clock stands on the former Middlesbrough Dock which was once a hive of activity in the North East of England. It is now the site of Middlesbrough College and is a stone’s throw from Riverside Stadium. The docks served the world with a wide range of goods, such as coal and iron, with the clock proudly watching over it all. However, this wonderful clock tower was more than just a way for workers to count the time remaining on their shifts!

The Dock Clock as we see it today was built around 1903 during a rebuild of the docks, using red engineering brick, red sandstone and terracotta. There were once offices built using the same materials, but these were eventually demolished following the closure of the dock. The flourishing trade flowing through the dock resulted in a need for expansion, and a bigger clock tower was needed to serve this larger dock. This expansion took in the site of the existing clock tower, leading to a new site for the future towers, including the one standing today. The clock served as an easy way for managers and officials to note the time of arrival or departure for each ship from anywhere on the dock. Interestingly, there are only clocks on three sides. Local folklore says that the reason for this was that an ironworks or shipyard on the ‘blind side’ refused to contribute to the costs because they didn’t want their workers clock-watching! The clock, like a lighthouse, also acted as a landmark for any approaching ships, and like earlier versions, the clock tower had a balcony for a look-out to keep an eye out for incoming vessels.

Like town halls or other clock towers, the tower itself had another purpose too. The Middlesbrough Dock Clock was a water tower. This did not provide drinking water, but used hydraulic power to operate the dock gates and cranes around the site. This explains why the bottom of the tower is much bulkier than the top. The remains of two water tanks are still there today. The design of the tower was possibly produced by William Bell, a prominent architect for the North Eastern Railway. His designs include the clock tower at Bank Top Station in Darlington, of which the Dock Clock tower is said to be a simplified version. Middlesbrough’s Dock Clock tower was so impressive that another was built on Hull’s Albert Dock. Sadly however, this was demolished during post-war reconstruction of the quay.

This clock tower is one of many indicators of Middlesbrough’s important industrial past. There are the remains of industry throughout the town, big and small, waiting to have a face peering through the windows or cracks.

Come along to our Black Path Railway Ramble on 21st May, part of Local History Month, to learn more! ‘Discover Middlesbrough – Local History Month’ is held throughout May, giving you a chance to explore hidden gems or maybe just enter a building you have always wanted to visit. Take a look at their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Discovermiddlesbrough to find out more.