That station clock

Further to my original story about scaffolding being erected in front of Bath Spa station foto facilitate urgent repairs to masonry, comes an email from Andrew Nicholls of Tower Clocks in Bristol.

His company looks after the clock mechanism in Bath – as they do the timepieces in front of Bristol Temple Meads and Reading Stations.

I said the clock in Bath was installed in 1931 – quoting from the Pevsner Architectural Guide of Bath edited by Michael Forsyth.

Andrew writes: I was interested to read your article about the Bath Spa clock on 10th Aug.  I
have looked after the clock mechanism for many years.

We need to dismantle it now to allow structural repairs to the stonework.  I was wondering
where you got the date 1931 for the clock installation.

It is certainly contemporary with that date, but the same type of system was in use
between approx 1920 and 1990.  The earliest picture of Bath station with a
clock that I have found is dated 1964.”

Then in a subsequent email, Andrew goes into greater detail:

“I wonder if the Pevsner Guide refers to the clock
system or to the platform clocks?  All the pictures of the station front I
have seen up to 1953 show the centre parapet gable with no clock.

it would appear that Brunel’s original architecture did not even have the
parapet gables. They seem to have been added sometime before 1890.

The station clock system is a Gent ‘Pulsynetic’ electro/mechanical type.
These were widely used in commercial and public buildings from the early
1900’s. The idea is that a central master clock is kept accurate and sends
electrical pulses every half minute to a number of secondary dials around
the building.

The secondary dials have an electromagnet and they are all
wired in series and advanced in step.  Additional dials can be wired into
the circuit as required. The circuit resistance is adjusted to set the
correct constant current for all the magnets to work reliably. The system
has backup batteries and continues to work during a power cut.

Bath Spa station clock still works using the Gent Pulsynetic system,
although the existing master clock is dated 1975, so must have replaced an
earlier worn-out one.  The equipment design changed very little over the

 As far as I can tell, the exterior station front clock was added
sometime between 1953 and 1964.  It has a heavy-duty version of the
secondary dial movement. When we first became involved, there were so many
secondary clocks that the system was split into three sub-circuits. These
covered various areas of the station and included large clocks hanging
over the platforms and indoor wall clocks in the various offices and
public areas.

These did not survive subsequent building modernisation
updates as they were considered old-fashioned and make a robust click
every half minute.

Now there is just the master clock and the secondary
movement behind the exterior dial. This allows the clock to be corrected
without access to the roof.

We have now removed the exterior dial so that masonry repairs can proceed.
It will be refitted after.”

Thanks, Andrew and very interesting too.