Wednesday 10 July 2019

The Sun Clock Tower

The Sun Clock Tower, as it is known,  is a former industrial pump house and clock tower located to the south of the junction of Ascot Road and Whippendell Road, diagonally opposite The Rising Sun (a Brewers Fayre and Premier Inn). It was designed by a London based architect George W. Knight (F.R.I.B.A.), who was one of the principal designers at the firm of Stanley Peach & Partners.

It was built in 1934 and is an ornately decorated Art Deco style building from the inter-war period, somewhat unusual in terms of form and composition. The clock tower of this single storey building rises to three storey height, was of multicoloured bricks and concrete walls with Italian green-glazed tile hipped roof. 

This pump house was built over an artesian well by the Sun Engraving Company who had a very large printing works opposite (the site now redeveloped) and was for the purpose of extracting water for industrial purposes.

A document published by Watford Borough Council (2010, but more recently updated) entitled "Locally Listed Buildings in Watford" documents "a large number of buildings that do not merit statutory listing under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, but are of architectural and/or historic value. As part of the Council's Urban Conservation Strategy, the Council is of the view that the contribution that these buildings make to the history, character, streetscape and identify of Watford is worthy of protection".

Page 127 of this document gives a full description of the Clock Tower:

'Rectangular plan. Building designed to house an artesian well and two pumps for the Sun Engraving Company, on land purchased from Watford Borough Council. One storey structure with central clock tower that is 518cm. from ground level to the apex. The walls are of reinforced concrete and small creased brick, laid in Flemish bond. Roof is hipped with slightly upturned eaves and of Italian green glazed tiles. Square centred clock tower element has rendered and textured wall, with a pitched roof of same materials as other roof. Tower topped by simple metal weathervane. Square projecting clock frames below the tower eaves level with circular openings for clock faces (refurbished). Geometric letters 'S.U.N.' lie below one another, pierced through the east and west tower walls. At base of east wall, a tall narrow window is covered by a wrought iron grille, engraved S.E.C. (for Sun Engraving Company). Single storey modern addition to south of building'. 

The Clock Tower fell into disrepair some years ago and was quite recently the subject of a dispute between the owner and Watford Borough Council, the dispute hindering its restoration.

For a full history of the Sun Engraving Company, please follow this link, where you will find a timeline, history, photographs, maps, reminiscences and a cine film with the clock tower featured quite prominently in the first few frames (made in about 1935):

 References:  Locally Listed Buildings in Watford, produced by Watford Borough Council, available to download as a PDF

The History of Sun Engraving and Sun Printers   
The Watford Observer - various reports and stories

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