Bangor clock tower

Image of Bangor City Council Crest

This clock tower is a relic of a political feud over Bangor’s rightful mayor. The legal case established that election returning officers in Britain must be impartial – see below.

The clock tower’s plaque records that the structure was presented to the city by Alderman Thomas Lewis “during his mayoralty”. It names architect Archibald Neill of Leeds and builder Thomas J Humphreys of Bangor.

The 14-metre (47ft) tower is in “Queen Ann” style and built of Ruabon red brick, with a dome of Cefn stone. Inside, a staircase leads to the clock, built by William Potts & Sons of Leeds to the designs of Lord Grimthorpe. As built, the clock had four illuminated faces and a “fine bell” to sound the hours.

At the clock’s unveiling in May 1887, the mayoress ceremonially set the clock in motion. In 1904 the “huge hammer” broke off while striking 11am. It fell in a “shower of bolts and nuts”, narrowly missing a cabman.

The “Bangor municipal muddle” began when Conservative councillor John Pritchard sought re-election in 1886. His only opponent was Liberal alderman Meshach Roberts (aldermen were voted in by councillors rather than the public). The Conservatives said Meshach was ineligible as he was already on the council. He gained the most votes but the returning officer, Colonel Platt, declared John the winner!

The election left the council evenly balanced. At the next meeting, John Pritchard and Thomas Lewis were both declared the new mayor by their respective parties, triggering a dispute which escalated through the courts until the Court of Appeal confirmed Thomas was the rightful mayor in December 1886.

By then the clock tower was under construction. The inscription about Thomas’ mayoralty rubbed salt into his opponents’ wounds. The Tories weren’t yet finished with the matter, but in March 1888 the House of Lords upheld the Court of Appeal’s judgement.

The crux of the case was that Colonel Platt had decided one of the candidates was ineligible. The Liberal argument was that if returning officers were allowed such discretion, they could be influenced by political bias or bribes. The Lords referred to the Ballot Act 1872 and said returning officers must confine themselves to administration (counting the votes and declaring the result) and could only exercise judgement on the validity of voting papers. The ruling still holds today.

Postcode: LL57 1RT    View Location Map