Image: removal and cleaning of Pierhead clock on St Mary's Street, Copyright: Elen Johnston

Historic clock WILL return to St Mary Street in spring after £28,759 restoration

Cardiff’s ‘Baby Big Ben’ has been undergoing restoration works over the past few months 

CARDIFF’S landmark Pierhead clock will return to St Mary Street in the spring as plans to move it to the castle grounds following its restoration were halted due to financial constraints. 

If you have walked down St Mary Street, you may have seen the clock’s empty glass casing. 

It was taken away for restoration works at the end of October 2023 and the council initially planned to re-locate the clock – which is over 100 years old – to the castle grounds. 

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by The Cardiffian in December 2023 revealed that it will no longer be re-located due to financial constraints. It will return to St Mary Street in the spring of this year. 

A Cardiff council spokesperson confirmed that these financial constraints relate to the cost of relocation but added: “We have Cadw’s consent to move it to the castle grounds, if and when it is deemed financially viable.” 

Cadw is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service which cares for Wales’ historic places.

The FoI request also revealed that the cost of refurbishing the clock was £28,759.  

The council spokesperson added: “The cost relates to the full refurbishment of the clock, the replacement of electrics, a new lighting system so the clock can be seen at night and re-installing the glass case on St Mary Street.” 

Image: The Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay. Credit: Adrian Platt

The clock is known as Cardiff’s ‘Baby Big Ben’ as the clock’s mechanism is nearly identical to the one inside Big Ben in London. 

It was built in 1897 by William Potts and Sons of Leeds and was originally installed in the waterfront Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay. 

It was sold to a collector in 1973 when it was replaced by an electric motor but was returned to Cardiff in 2005.  

It was on display at the Old Library in The Hayes but then went into storage until it was installed on St Mary Street in 2011. 

The Wales and Marches Horological Society, whose members specialise in clocks and other instruments, said: “The Pierhead clock is something of an icon in Welsh society, as the 6ft 6in dials are seen by the people of Wales every time they tune into the Welsh TV news.” 

Brian Coles, secretary of the Horological society said: “The preservation of horological heritage is really very important because no-one is making these things now, whereas they were made in significant numbers in the past. An awful lot has been lost over the years.”