Hull’s Guildhall Greenwich Time Ball will today reclaim its position on the city’s skyline as part of a £452,000 makeover.
Contractors Hobson & Porter will carefully lift the historic timepiece – which weighs 50kgs and measures 42” in diameter – over 70 metres into the air by crane before manually lowering it onto the mast above the clock tower. A weathervane, modelled on an 18th century merchant ship, will also be installed. Both pieces, designed and manufactured by clockmakers Smith of Derby, have been finished in 23.5 carat English gold leaf.
Dating back to 1918, Hull’s time ball is one of the last to be built in the UK and one of only a handful remaining nationally. It is also the only such timepiece on a municipal building and, at 60 metres above ground level, is the highest in the UK.
Originally designed to show the time to ships on the Humber and the River Hull, the ball dropped down a pole at a specific time, allowing navigators to verify the setting of their maritime chronometers.
The time ball will be brought back into full working order in spring 2022, marking 100 years since the ball last dropped. This will coincide with the completion of the restoration works, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Hull City Council, which also includes improvements to the clock tower and its historic stonework.
Once complete, visitors will not only be able to watch the ball rise and fall – dropping at 12.00 GMT during the winter months and 13.00 BST during the summer – but they’ll also be able to see the ball’s working mechanisms for the first time via a virtual tour. Other features will include an interpretation station and a specially designed interactive STEM pod which will tell the story through hands-on, multi-sensory learning. The historic stories of the time ball will be brought to life by an animation, a shadow puppetry film and music developed in partnership with Hull Minster carillonneur.
Councillor Daren Hale, Leader of Hull City Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Investment and Regeneration said: “As well as being a stunning feature in the city’s skyline, the restoration of the time ball and the renovation of the tower contributes to our ambition to make Hull a world-class visitor destination. As an integral part of our Maritime Project, it will allow this important aspect of Hull’s unique maritime history to be rediscovered and celebrated by local residents and visitors for generations to come.
“While we will have to wait a little longer to see the historic landmark in all its former glory, as scaffolding will obscure the full view until the works are complete, this is our first opportunity to catch a glimpse of the new time ball from today.”