CLOCK: Bid to retain rare feature

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We are writing to gauge public interest regarding the future of Morpeth’s Floral Clock in Carlisle Park.

Many people will be aware of the history of the clock. It was given to the Borough of Castle Morpeth some 45 years ago in recognition of the civic work of Alderman Bertram Jobson, a much admired former Mayor of Morpeth and member of the influential Jobson family.

Once glorious and a talking point throughout the region, the clock last worked in 2008 and had failed to work reliably for some time prior to this, despite having had expensive and extensive repairs. It lies today in a sorry state.

It has been brought to our attention the positive news that there is a plan to renovate Carlisle Park, and this brings into question the future of Morpeth’s Floral Clock.

We think there are people who will remember the clock with great affection, and will regard it as part of their heritage.

We currently manage a group on social media, Friends of Morpeth’s Floral Clock, with a membership of 730 and growing rapidly.

This group includes the families of Alderman Bertram Jobson and the gentleman who paid for the clock, James Fairbairn Smith, who support our wish to retain a floral clock in Morpeth if at all possible.

We understand that there are only four floral clocks in England, the others believed to be in Whitby, Blackpool and Hove. Floral clocks are, therefore, rare and a genuine attraction. To have, once more, a fully functioning floral clock would be a great boost to tourism and trade in Morpeth, and Northumberland.

We are mindful that there are several issues to consider and problems to resolve to enable this to happen. One of these is cost.

Morpeth’s Floral Clock would be expensive to repair, and may even need to be completely replaced. It would also need to be maintained and serviced, planted and tended. The project would need to be sustainable.

We appreciate that Northumberland County Council is not in a position to fully fund this, and nor would we expect it to. We are confident that we could raise a considerable amount of money to go towards this, and there are a number of trusts and funds to which we could apply, who we believe would be interested in supporting us.

We have also received numerous pledges of support from the public, both financial and in kind, as well as the many well-wishers who have sent their good wishes from home and abroad, all demonstrating a will to retain a floral clock in Morpeth.

A further issue to be considered is that of vandalism. In the past our clock has been damaged by people putting weight on its pointers. We think that measures can be put into place to ameliorate this risk, for example careful location of the clock, planting, protective barriers and CCTV.

We recognise that in considering the issue of retaining a fully functioning floral clock there are a number of questions that would need to be answered.

We have been in touch with the Friends of Pannett Park in Whitby. Whitby’s stunning floral clock had stood, like ours, in a state of disrepair for many years until refurbishment in 2006. We have been given an invitation to visit to learn from the Whitby model and find out, amongst other things, the measures they have taken to protect their clock.

The invitation extends to taking councillors, officers and decision-makers to Whitby, and we feel this would be extremely useful as part of a fact-finding mission.

We are inspired by the Whitby model because Whitby is a town not unlike Morpeth and we believe that if it can achieve a fully functioning clock, then it is also possible to do this here.

All we are asking is that decision-makers and councillors consider our concerns, be open to suggestions, and be willing to adopt a fact-finding approach as to how a floral clock can be retained. 

We would also like to gauge public support for the idea of maintaining a floral clock in Morpeth and for a fact-finding mission to assess the feasibility of this.

We ask that any readers who would like to support or be kept informed join us on Facebook on Friends of Morpeth’s Floral Clock or email Morpethfloralclock@gmail.com

Barbara Ross, Jan Clarke, Suzanne Austerberry

Friends of Morpeth’s Floral Clock