During my time in university, I wrote essays about different historical events, namely some places in Brighton. One case that I enjoyed researching in particular was the clock tower key. 

Anyone who frequents Brighton will be familiar with the clock tower that rests between North Street, Western Road, West Street and Queens Road. The key for which is held by Brighton and Hove museums. 

The tower was listed as a Grade 2 building in 2001 by English heritage, due to its architectural and historical importance. This means that it is subject to regulations that prevent work from being done to it without permission from the relevant authorities.

It was built in order to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee the year 1887, and is adorned with pictures of Queen Victoria, alongside her late husband, Prince Albert, as well as her son, the Prince of Wales, and his wife, Princess Alexandra.

The key had been made my Folkard and Son, for the opening of the tower in 1888, and is gold plated.

It was presented to the mayor of Brighton in 2016 when the great-great-grandson of Alderman Edward Martin (who was mayor in 1888), handed it to Councillor Pete West. 

Initially, the tower was named Willing’s Jubilee Clock Tower, as it was a gift from a local businessman, James Willing, costing him £2000 (which would now be worth just under £55,000).

Designed by John Johnson, after he won a competition held by Brighton and Hove City Council, he took some inspiration from the previous century, from the baroque and rococo styles of architecture, like the pink granite, the Corinthian columns, and the intricately carved details and gold elements, all the way to the golden roof and time ball, for which the mast alone measures 4.3 meters. The time ball was the work of Magnus Volk, who was responsible for many electricity-based inventions. His contribution came in the form of the golden ball which sits on top of the tower and used to rise the central mast and fall back down upon each hour. But this mechanism was removed due to the damage it had begun to cause to the structural integrity.

The majority of Brighton’s population; visitors and residents alike are likely to have encountered this monumental structure. Whether they are aware of its significance or not, it is a pivotal landmark for everyone. the clock tower is a strong building, juxtaposed to the modern architecture around it with its rococo elements. The commemorative key highlights the fact that the opening of Willing’s Jubilee Clock Tower was a very important moment because, at this moment in time, Brighton has already been established as a holiday destination. To this day, the clocktower sees high traffic, from taxis to pedestrians, and is constantly under scrutiny and daily wear and tear and is truly a valuable part of the City’s history.



Robertson, Dan, “Clock Tower Key, 1888”, Brighton Pavilion and Museums Trust, Brighton Museums, 12 June 2020, 9 January 2021. https://closelook.brightonmuseums.org/collections

Unknown “The Mechanism”, My Brighton and Hove, British Library, 22 March 2006, 9 January 2021 https://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/

Unknown, “Clock Tower, Brighton”, Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 1 January 2021, 9 January 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

The commemorative key for the clock tower