The Clacton Tower

The clock tower
designed for Clacton
town centre.
There is good reason as to why you may never have heard of Clacton's tower, for it was never actually built. There were two plans however for different designs in the town's history around the same time, one of quite reasonable design and the other quite mad.

During the Victorian age, the concept of day and weekend trips to the seaside had taken the country by storm. The new railway lines and their relative affordability to the middle-class, had opened up a whole new industry in tourism all around the country. The English obsession with the seaside had been born, and with it the need and desire to develop many coastal towns up and down the country.

In that same time period, English towns began a rather eccentric habit of building great clock towers in town centres, many of which dominated the bustling seasides. Built examples of these can be seen in towns such as Margate, Herne Bay and Weymouth; often known as Jubilee Clocks, they were built largely as a celebration of Queen Victoria's reign in a grandiose Gothic style. Clacton never received such a building, but it didn't stop designers planning some very elaborate designs.

In 1889 a Mr. T. H. Baker designed a Gothic style clock tower for the Clacton Improvement Association. It was to be made of doulting stone and would have stood at height of eighty feet with a gallery available for public access at around forty feet. It would have four clock faces, with four chiming bells as well as a public drinking fountain at the base. (Not too sure public drinking fountains are the best idea for town centres however!)

Henry Ough's viewing tower
design for Clacton seafront.
Had it have been built it would have stood upon the cross road between Pier Avenue, Station Road and West Avenue (opposite where the McDonalds stands today.) Instead of a clock tower, the site today has a very pathetic looking water feature.

This design however was nothing compared to the idea London architect Henry Ough had for Clacton's promenade a few years earlier in 1886. He proposed building a huge ornate viewing tower that would overlook the sea and the surrounding Essex countryside. Standing at 184 feet (just under two thirds the height of Big Ben,) the tower would have contained multiple viewing galleries on different levels each with their own covered balconies, accessible to the public by lifts and a stair case. Each level would have served a different function including smoking, reading and refreshment rooms.

Unfortunately a global recession around the time prevented this project from ever seeing the light of day. At the time the idea was being seriously considered as it would have been great draw for visitors from further afield which they believed would make good use of the viewing tower's facilities. Lack of immediate funding however doomed the project, and it was probably realised later that the idea was perhaps just a little too extreme for a small coastal town to seriously entertain.


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