The biggest liar in town

We all know the three-faced liar in Brownhills. The Council House Clock – stopped, restored, restarted, stopped, restored, restarted. I lie in bed on warm summer nights and hear it chime the hour over a sleeping, somnambulant town, usually incorrectly. It’s a thing of pride, embarrassment and hilarity in the community.

We all love it to bits, it’s as much Brownhills as Morris Miner, Poxon’s Butchers or Co-op corner. But few know how it came to be, and reader and top news-sleuth Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has found a classic story in the Lichfield Mercury of 1912.

Students of local nomenclature will spot many local street names in the recording of dignitaries speeches, and also, that the familiar canard of councillors – that youth never get involved – is unchanged in a century. Similar dignified moaning can be found in the previous article regarding potholed roads of the time. For a wider picture of Brownhills during the period, check Dr. Maddaver’s statement on the health of Brownhills.

Sad to see that we’ve apparently missed the centenary of the clock unmarked. I apologise for not spotting it.

Anyway, Peter transcribed the article, and thanks to him for that. For techno-buffs, he did so using Siri voice dictation on an iPad, and I think I caught most of the homophonic errors. If there are any more, have a free chuckle on us…

Cheers Peter. A classic article and great find.


The unveiling of Brownhills’ biggest liar. Never knowingly on time… Picture from Walsall Council’s ‘A click in time’ website.

The Brownhills Clock (abridged)

The Lichfield Mercury recorded the installation of the Public Clock in the Public Buildings, at Brownhills on Thursday 21 November 1912. The clock had been purchased mainly by public subscriptions by the inhabitants of Brownhills and district, and had been erected over the principal door leading into the public buildings.

It is of handsome appearance, with a 9 inch brass frame, with hardened steel pinions, hammered bearings, and a Graham dead beat escapement, and second quarter pendulum, driven by two weights weighing 3 and 1.5 hundredweights respectively. The pendulum ball weighs 60lbs, and the bell, which serves the double purpose of the fire alarm and clock bell, weighs two a half hundredweight. The dials are 3 feet in diameter, and it is only clock of its kind in the Midlands. The dials, of which there are three, one at each side and one in the front, are of opal and copper, with hands of copper. It is fixed to the wall by means of two brackets, weighing 1.5 hundredweights each.

The starting of the clock was marked by a public ceremony, and a great deal of interest was taken in the event in Brownhills and district, and a large crowd assembled outside the Public Building to watch the starting of the clock.

Mr JH Shaw, who formally started the clock, said that it gave him been great pleasure to see such a large attendance at the ceremony. The committee felt very grateful to the people for the interest located in the matter. This would be, he was sure, be a red letter day at Brownhills. It had double interest for him, for that day he had completed 25 years service amongst them. He was greatly indebted to them for the honour conferred upon him in allowing him to start the first public clock in Brownhills. He had much pleasure in formally presenting the clock to Mr G Hodgkins, the chairman of the Brownhills Urban District Council, who promised to maintain and keep it in good repair for the benefit of the people of Brownhills.


‘Sore abused, but not yet dead’ – despite hideous extensions and architectural desecration, the Council House – now the Parkview Centre – maintained the clock, which steadfastly refuses to tell the correct time. Were it ever to do so, I think all life in Brownhills would cease.

Mr G Hodgkins, on behalf of the Urban District Council said the chairman had very great pleasure in accepting the handsome clock presented by the Improvement Committee, and wished to than the workers and subscribers for that effort in providing Brownhills with such a valuable and useful acquisition. The provision of a public clock, situated in such a prominent position, would be esteemed a great boon by the ratepayers and residents of that growing community. The ceremony that day was the outcome of a public spirit he was delighted to recognise, and he hoped that the clock that was now confined to the care of the Council would be the forerunner of many more achievements for the public good. (hear, hear)

Mr Shaw then proceeded to start the clock a few minutes before 3 o’clock. As the hands arrived at the hour the clock commenced to chime in loud tones.

A public luncheon was held in the Public Buildings and the guests are listed…

Councillor Bradbury said that he was very proud to see a little village like Brownhills come to the front, and after many trials and troubles, be in a position to obtain a public clock. They had now got the clock, and it would be even harder for anyone to take it off than it had been for them to get it erected. (laughter). He knew that some of the subscriptions had been given more than 20 years ago, and he was sure they would all agree with him if he named it the ‘patience clock.’ (Laughter)…

…The clock would be useful in many ways to the inhabitants of Brownhills. It had been started that day, and he very much doubted whether anyone of those present in the room would live to see it stop. They had made one step towards improving Brownhills, and he hoped that many more improvements would be effected. (applause)

Mr W Lunt spoke of what might be done in the future in endeavouring to get a public park, baths, a library and news room, and many other improvements for the good of the people of Brownhills….

Mr Holland thought it was rather a pity that the young people of the district did not take much interest in municipal affairs…

Mr HH Jackson said it was all very well for the man in the street to say that he would do this, that, and the other. If he could do it, let him take his place on the Council and do it. (Applause)

Mr G Hodgkins said that at a recent Council meeting, when the question of the clock was discussed, it was decided that a fire alarm should be attached to the bell, and the expense would be defrayed by the Council…

Dr Wolverson said that he should like to see Brownhills, Norton Canes, and Walsall Wood made into one Parish, instead of three parishes present. (Applause.)

Dr D Bradbury gave a statement of expenditure on the clock. The cost of the clock, he said, had been about £120… A list of subscriptions is given….

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9 Responses to The biggest liar in town

  1. morturn says:

    Well this is an interesting article, I have always been fascinated with the way clocks became a part of the landscape and history, and how clock and time have evolved to part a significant part of peoples lives.

    There are a number of criteria according to which the past can be divided up, not just to produce manageable chunks, but also to organise our thoughts about it.

    I think time is a complex concept, it is most rigorously analysed by philosophers, physicists and astronomers. My interest is history and the systematic study of the past, therefore at its heart is time.

    With my interest in history I try to take a practical viewpoint, and am interested in the effects of passing of time on human memory, and how we chunk our past up into manageable chunks, based on time, relationships and places and how we have used time as a device to create pegs to hang the past on.

    One final word, I discovered this clock a couple of years ago in Tirley Gloucestershire, a great example of ‘recycling time’ and a monument to a fascinating man.

  2. br007kbond says:

    I love the “Three faced Liar” it reminds me that time, so far, is endless!

  3. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    a super article! Oh! to have been there ! Well done Pedro. And what a coincidence to see that both photos were taken at 11.35 !

  4. Pingback: Doing the Time Warp again… | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  5. Edwina. says:

    Brilliant article yet again Bob, but when you look at one of the latest photos taken don’t you have to wonder how on earth that monstrosity of an extension has been added. I hope you have added to your annals of time capsule that the folk of Brownhills (hopefully) had nothing to do with its development (who actually did – do we know?). When compared to the beautiful old building supporting the clock this carbuncle looks really really out of place big time.

  6. Pingback: Clocking on | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  7. Ken Turner says:

    I went to Brownhills Central Boys school I didn’t have a wristwatch until my 13th birthday,the early days at the school were governed by the clock,it seemed to be ok then as I was never late as far as I can remember,I used to lie in bed and hear it chime,I still live in Brownhills,somewhat closer to it now but I haven;t heard it chime for a while so I assume its out of order again It was originally a fire bell for the fire station opposite but during the late 50’s was replaced by a ww2 siren which was on a gantry right by the playground,lessons had to stop if it went off,firemen would arrive on pushbikes,motorbikes or on foot,I think they were the voluntary ones..

  8. Brian says:

    The clock does keep decent time Ken and the bell still tolls, but not necessarily the correct number of times.

  9. Drive the drunks out says:

    I know some two faced liars in the area!

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