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Mini Ben gets a facelift—but fails to chime with Big Ben

PUBLISHED: 18:31 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:23 05 October 2010

East End's 'mini' version of Big Ben is restored

East End's 'mini' version of Big Ben is restored

A VICTORIAN mini-replica of London’s iconic Big Ben clock tower has just been refurbished after being in disrepair for two decades. The clock tower at the former Co-Operative Wholesale Society HQ in East London has been restored by developers following guidelines from English Heritage. The Sugar House tower in Whitechapel, half-a-mile from the Tower of London, is a quarter-sized version of the original at Westminster which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year

Mike Brooke

A VICTORIAN mini-replica of London’s iconic Big Ben clock tower has just been refurbished after being in disrepair for two decades.

The clock tower at the former Co-Operative Wholesale Society headquarters in East London has been restored by developers with guidelines from English Heritage.

The red-bricked Sugar House tower overlooking Leman-street in Whitechapel, half-a-mile from the Tower of London, is a quarter-sized version of the original at Westminster which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.

The clock is the crowning feature of Sugar House, a Grade II-listed building which is being transformed into 42 new apartments and penthouses being launched on the market in September.

The same manufacturers that made the original clock in 1887, Thaites & Reed, were called in for its restoration.

The company, clockmakers for 250 years, is also responsible for maintaining its Big Brother’ at Westminster, more commonly known as Big Ben.

“Sugar House is such a beautiful, listed building that it was vital we chose the original manufacturer to restore the clock to working order,” explained Piers Clanford, managing director of Berkeley Homes which is redeveloping the site.

“The building was constructed in an age before people had wrist-watches, so the clock tower was important. It remains one of East London’s notable landmarks.”

One of the penthouses will incorporate the base of the clock tower as an octagonal mezzanine level room.

But fortunately for whoever buys it, the clock no longer chimes. It has been converted to run with digital mechanism rather than a pendulum.

The original clock had quarter and hourly chimes, activated by gravity weights that stretched down four floors inside the tower.

The carefully-crafted 8ft 6ins diameter dials are cast iron skeletons with internal counterpoised motion-work.

Each clock hand had been fashioned from ribbed copper and the original glass is German opal.

Sugar House is part of the redevelopment of historic Goodman’s Fields in Whitechapel into a luxury housing complex, one of the largest residential regeneration projects in the City Fridge for a decade. Prices range from £465,000 to two-bedroom penthouses at £1.1 million.


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