he Clock Tower in Stonehaven is a Category B-listed structure located in the Old Town near the harbour. Erected in 1790, the property is a single-bay square tower rising through 4 floors and terminating with a lead-clad spire.
The Tower is an important landmark within the Old Town, forms part of the historic skyline of the harbour area, and has significant importance to the historical development of Stonehaven, which continues today through its use as part of the world famous annual Hogmanay Stonehaven Fireballs Festival.
In recent years the building had fallen into disrepair and required substantial renovation works to bring it back to safe and sustainable use. In considering the various constraints afforded by the Tower’s restricted floorplan, siting, access opportunities, limited adaptability for alternative uses and configuration; the preferred restoration option was to sustain and enhance its role in providing an attractive facility for both the local community and tourists. As such, the Tower underwent an extensive programme of sympathetic internal and external repairs to consolidate and enhance its original role of providing a public service.
Previously, the Tower was underused and lay vacant and ignored for the majority of the year until its incorporation in the Annual Fireballs celebrations when the Tower was illuminated and the bells rang out at midnight. The overall vision for the Tower was to maintain it externally in its current form as a prominent feature of the High Street of Stonehaven, with appropriate repairs and restoration to the facades. Externally the only addition was an all abilities access ramp to the ground floor. Internally, much of the timber flooring and steep stairs were beyond repair, and the spaces on the middle two internal levels were of no practical use because of their very limited size.
Following discussions with Historic Environment Scotland, it was agreed that the middle two floors could be removed allowing the bells and clock mechanisms to be viewed from the ground floor. A new system of access ladders and narrow platforms were installed to allow access for maintenance only, to the top level, bells, clock mechanism and external walkways. Internally, on the ground floor, an interpretative display was installed, providing historical information on the Tower itself and the history of the Fireballs ceremony, a video of the actual Fireballs ceremony, a walking trail around the Old Town and an interactive computer screen showing a 360 degree panorama from the top of the Tower.
The restoration works included (total cost £250,000):
- Repairs to bellcote and weathervane, new lead roof and flashings
- New timber balustrade and matching railings for all abilities access
- Repointing of external and internal walls
- Replacement of displaced/damaged sandstone blocks
- Timber window and door repairs and repainted
- Replacement of existing bell cradle with new hardwood cradle
- Full restoration of historic barometer
- Repairs to bells and reinstatement of chiming mechanism for clock
All works were carried out in consultation with and support of the local Heritage Group, Fireballs Association, Tolbooth Museum Group and Town Team Tourism Group.
The Clock Tower opened to the public in spring 2015 and has proved to be very popular. Over 6,500 people visited the building during 2016.