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Big Ben as well

02 November 2006

HE MUST have been an impossible man to deal with. Lord Grimthorpe is known to have said: “An ideal committee consists of two people, an absentee and myself as chairman.”

He is notoriously controversial for having rebuilt large chunks of St Albans Abbey, including the west front, according to his own design (he hated architects), but also at his own expense, which probably saved the cathedral from a far worse fate. He restored two other churches in St Albans, and also the Parish Church of Doncaster, where he was the local MP.

This year is the 100th anniversary of his death, and it is not for his church restoration that he is being remembered, but for his work on the design of the Great Clock at Westminster, known to the world as Big Ben. Having written A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches and Bells, he was invited to help the Astronomer Royal advise on the Great Clock. Two years later, he was the sole adviser, and, together with Frederick Dent, designed the clock, bulldozing his way through government red tape.

So it was 40 members of the Antiquarian Horological Society who gathered at St Albans to remember him, and to lay a wreath on his grave.

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