The original Aberystwyth clock tower was built in1858 and stood at the top of Great Darkgate Street in the town centre.
The clock was erected to mark the spot upon which the Aberystwyth Guildhall had stood at this point from 1770 until its demolition in 1855.
The previous town clock had been incorporated into the Guildhall itself.
The original clock from the Guildhall was comprised of three large bells which sat up in the turret of the building, whilst a three weight mechanism was used to keep the time and strike the bells. The combined weight of this mechanism came to almost 80kg. The keeper of the town clock was a Mr Jones, who was paid £5 per year to wind the town clock in order to keep the time and bell ringing accurate.
When the Guildhall was demolished the powerful Pryse family of Gogerddan, descended from the 16th Century Lord of Cardigan, and owners of a large estate near Aberystwyth made a gesture to the town, and gifted the people a new town mechanism, which was to be used in a new clock, as shown in the above picture.
The 62 foot clock was erected by local builder Mr Rodderick Williams & Son, and the majority of the structure was built with welsh stone from a local quarry, which was owned by Roderick Williams. This quarry also supplied a number of other local buildings, including St John’s Church in Penrhyncoch, which was also a gift from the Pryse family. The clock tower was then dressed in Bath stone, a kind of limestone which was supplied by Randall and Saunders of Bath in Somerset.
The land upon which the new clock was built was a gift from the well off Nanteos family, whose mansion sits just South East of Aberystwyth. However, the building of the clock itself was funded by public subscription and cost £1,250.
In order to complete the clock, the Aberystwyth Town Council was forced to borrow money from the local councillors themselves. The councillors were paid back over time, with one having there money returned every six months, with a rate of interest on top in order to compensate the council member. In order to decide who was to be paid the names of all councillors who had loaned money were placed into a hat, with one being drawn at random. This person would then recieve their money back along with the interest payment. Some councillors saw a greater benefit from being paid at a later date, as they recieved more interest on top of their original loan.
On completion the clock became firmly entrenched in the daily life of the towns people, and became a much loved focal point for the town.
However in 1956 the top of the clock tower was declared to be unsafe, and as such the clock tower was taken down. The clock mechanism which was a gift from the Pryse family was saved, but over time a number of parts were lost. However, the main time keeping piece was restored some years later and is now on display on the Ceredigion Museum on Terrace Road in Aberystwyth. If you look up at the centre window of the museum, you will see the original 12 foot pendulum which is still swinging in the museum. A small dial powered by the mechanism also shows passers by the time.
Approximately 40 years later funding was raised to build a new town clock, which is the clock that you see standing at the top of Great Darkgate Street today, and was built to celebrate the millenium.