Husainabad Clock Tower

(Detailed Write-up on Husainabad Clock Tower including technical aspects)

Clock Tower, Lucknow

This tower, which is dates back to 1881, was commissioned by the Deputy Commissioner, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman T. Horaford, Bengal Staff Corps, the Trustees of the Hussainabad Endowment, who administer the fortune of 36 Lakhs (3.6 Millions) of rupees bequeathed by Mohammad Ali Shah, the Third king of Awadh (Oudh), have erected a stately tower, 221 feet high and 20 feet square, from the design of Mr. R.R. Baynee, of Calcutta (now called Kolkata), for the reception of a clock of great size and power, made by Mr. J.W. Benson, Ludgate Hill, London.

The following is a brief description of the clock movement:

The bed or frame is horizontal, which allows any part to be removed for cleaning or repair, without disturbing the rest, whereas in the upright frame, to gain access to a particular part, the whole machine has to be more, or less, taken to pieces. It contains of two wrought-iron sides, having a massive pillar of the same material bolted between them at each end. The length is 6 feet and the width is 3 feet. All the train wheels are of gun-metal and well hammered, the teeth being divided, cut, and polished by power, thereby insuring an accuracy impossible in hand-made work. The main wheel is 24 inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches thick, and the other wheels are of proportionate size. In one of the designs for the great clock at Westminster, the main wheel is 18 inches in diameter, which, although considered too small will show, by comparison, the size of the present clock. The pinions are of hardened steel, cut from the solid, made and finished in the same manner as the wheels.

There are three trains of wheels, one in the centre to record the time on the dials, called ‘the going part’, to the right of which is the quarter chiming train, and to the left the hour striking train. The barrels work in plummer-blocks, and the uprights, which carry the trains are bolted on in such a manner as to be easily removable. All the bearings, which are of the best gun-metal, are screwed instead of being riveted into their respective places as in usually done. The barrels for carrying the weights, and the spindles on which they are mounted, are of wrought iron, the drums being 12 inches in diameter, fitted between caps and ratchets by means of which the weights are wound without interrupting the motion of the great wheel. The weights are suspended by steel cords, which being much less bulky than rope, permit the barrels and frame to be greatly reduced in size, and render the general arrangement more compact.

During the act of winding, which takes the motive power off the great wheel, it is obvious that the clock would stop unless some means were provided to continue the action.

This substitute, technically known as ‘the maintaining power’, has been specially designed by the firm, and its working is as follows:

To gain access to the winding square, the attendant must first raise a lever, one end of which gears into the teeth of the great wheel, and the other being weighted, supplies the motion. The winding completed, the lever gradually drops with the revolution of the wheel into its old position. The escapement is Graham’s dead-beat, the advantages of which are that, being so simple and made on such true principles, it is not easily deranged, and in the unlikely event of it’s becoming so, a man of ordinary capacity can rectify it, which is not the case with complicated gravity escapements.

The pendulum is 14 feet long, and has a bob of 3 cwt*. It is compensated with zinc and iron tubes to counteract the variations of temperature.

Time is shown on four dials, each 13 feet in diameter, at an elevation of 120 feet. Each dial consists of twelve openings in the brickwork 2 feet in diameter, glazed with white opal glass on which the numerals are marked in black enamel. The centre circle is also of the same material, and measures 5 feet 9 inches in diameter. The hands are of copper, and counterpoised on inside of tower. The minute hand is 6 feet and the hour hand is 4 feet 6 inches long.

As it was impossible, owing to the large surface of brickwork which divides the circles, to illuminate the dials from behind, a special method had been devised for the purpose. On the bell-chamber floor above the clock-room are eight copper lanterns, two for each dial, having plate-glass fronts and silver-plated holophotal reflectors. From these reflectors a powerful stream of light was thrown upon an exterior reflector placed at such an angle as will project the light on the centre of the dial. The outside reflectors were movable, all four being extended, or withdrawn, at the same time, by an arrangement of wheels and cogs worked by the attendant.

This system of lighting, which has been thoroughly tested before adoption, is the best under the somewhat difficult conditions in which the clock had to be illuminated, and its advantages were that the lanterns being within the building, they can be of larger size than if suspended on the outside, whilst the light being better protected from wind and rain, will be steadier and more effective.

The striking part is made with all recent improvements of that period, the hammer being raised by the great wheel, by which means a heavier blow and more sound were obtained than from the corresponding mechanism of the old construction. The system used is the rack repeating work, which was the easiest in its action, safest in its locking and the most modern; whereas the old style of locking plate, or count wheel, was unreliable, being apt to run past its locking and strike the wrong hours. The clock will chime the Cambridge quarters, the beauty of which is universally acknowledged, being attributed to no less a musician than Handel.

Immediately above the dials is the bell-chamber, where, upon a teak frame, the bells are so mounted as the produce the greatest volume of sound. These five bells had been specially cast for this clock, are of the finest bell-metal, and their tones are extremely clear and musical. The hammers are mounted in frames and fitted with steel counter-springs to prevent ‘chattering.’

The following are the weights of the bells :-
Hour bell 20 Cwt*.
Fourth quarter 8 Cwt.
Third quarter 8 Cwt.
Second quarter 6 Cwt.
First quarter 5 Cwt.

This is by far the largest clock in India.

*1 Cwt. (Centum Weight) = 45.36 Kg (Approx)

Source: The Tourists’ Guide To Lucknow (Extracts from various historians’ works)