Clock House, Pembroke

Clock House, Pembroke

Engraving of Clock Tower in PembrokeThis building, now home to ND Toy Insurance Consultants, has been a landmark in Main Street since the early 19th century. It may have replaced a town hall on the site, after a new town hall was erected in 1819.

The building’s original form is shown in the 1830 engraving by Henry Gastineau, born in England to a Huguenot family (protestants who had fled persecution in France). Through the entrances either side of the tower was a market area, possibly selling fish (fishmongers needed part-open retail spaces before refrigeration).

By the mid-1850s Pembroke had three recognised times, not always synchronised: the time shown on the clock tower; “railway time”; and “Dockyard time”. This led to disputes when farmers brought their finest animals to compete in the annual agricultural show on Castle Green, only to be turned away because they were deemed late. In 1857 the show committee discussed which time to standardise on. Even in the 1870s, the show’s prospectus specified “Pembroke clock time”.

The building was altered at various times in the 19th century. In 1870 a “gilded ball” was fixed to the top of the tower, prompting a row over the £7 cost. Town councillors thought the ball would be funded by private donations and were unimpressed when asked to pay!

Compare the engraving with the old postcard from the early 20th century to see how the building was altered. 

Old postcard showing Pembroke Clock House

Two cherubs now face the street near the top of the tower. According to local legend, two others were placed at the rear but moved to Orielton Lodge, Hundleton, because they faced St Mary’s Church – and their nakedness was deemed inappropriate!

Before the First World War, a Mrs Slee ran an employment exchange in the building. She would register cooks, parlourmaids and general servants and match them with vacancies. In 1905 she advertised: “Good cooks wanted at once for first class families.” She later provided catering staff for Pembroke Infirmary.

In the early 20th century the ground floor here hosted the smallest branch of stationer WH Smith & Son, including a circulating library.

With thanks to Pembroke & Monkton Local History Society

Postcode: SA71 4NP    View Location Map

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