Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Letter: The disgrace of the Grays Library Clock


Dear Sir,

November 11th this year sees the 113th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie Free Library in Orsett Road, Grays.

The crowning glory of that fine building was a three faced turret clock, financed by donations from schoolchildren of the district. My late mother in law, Charlotte Victoria Philbrick [nee Bridger], who was one of those schoolchildren, remarked on a number of occasions, “When I was going to school I helped to buy that clock, we kids bought that clock, it was our clock, we used to give what we could afford, usually it would be our odd farthings, ha’pennies and pennies, to buy that clock”. She used to show a great deal of concern and sorrow as to what had become of the clock.

Apparently when the Carnegie Library was demolished in 1970 there was a story going round that the clock would be saved and put on display in the brand new museum that was going to be accommodated in the new building. It was also said that when the hoardings that were put up to protect the public during the supposed “partial” demolition of the old library and the building of the new one were removed the front portion of the Carnegie Library would have been left in situ and would be used as an entrance to the new building. How wrong was that?

For many years, to my knowledge, the library clock languished in the relative safety of the garage to the rear of the library complex. If the clock, before being put back on display, required repair this could easily have been arranged.

I know of one local person, an expert in this type of work and with a sense of local history, who would have been happy to take on the task, perhaps gratis, simply to see it up and working again. It was also in this garage that the ancient window “saved” from the Bull Inn, “old” High Street, Grays, just before it was demolished in 1970, was stored for a good many years.

This could be seen by the casual passing observer propped against the right hand wall of the garage. The window is said to have been removed from the old Grays Town Hall when it was demolished around 1852 and placed in the Bull Inn so giving it a great historical association with the town. Why was it never put on display?

A few years back I was informed that the much loved library clock had been found dumped, exposed to the elements, in the grounds of Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury. Did the same fate befall the Bull Inn window? I was also told that the clock when found was devoid of its movement, which very likely would have been made of brass. Did it go for scrap?

I have a photograph of the library clock, taken very soon after it was removed from the old library, that shows it to have been complete and in remarkably good condition.

Who was responsible for removing “our” clock, for surely it was “our” clock, paid for by local money, from the safety of the library garage to take its chances with the weather and vandals at Coalhouse Fort? Who is going to put their hand up to committing this sacrilegious act? Surely Thurrock Council and the Museum Service should be brought to book.

Even at this late hour something should be done to make amends for what has happened or give a reason as to why the library clock and the Bull Inn window were treated so badly.

Yours enquiringly,

B. Barnes [Mr]"


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