Mystery over who owns Porty town clock

The High Street in the 1890s with the clock in situ
The High Street in the 1890s with the clock in situ
6
Have your say

A TOWN clock which has lain in storage for almost a decade has been driving community leaders cuckoo – over exactly who it belongs to.

The Portobello Clock, which was displayed on the town’s Baptist church, was taken down by the council in 2003 for repairs but never
reinstated.

The city council agreed to repair the clock, at a cost of £47,000, on behalf of the community when pieces of iron started falling off.

A statutory notice was then handed to Portobello Baptist Church to carry out necessary repairs to the stonework of the building which would allow the clock to be hung again. However, the church refused to cover the cost as it could not afford the £50,000 bill.

Since then, the clock has been in limbo, but now Portobello Community Council, along with the town’s amenity society and heritage trust, has vowed to push ahead and raise the funds needed to reinstate it.

There’s only one problem – they cannot start the process until they know to whom the clock officially belongs.

Portobello Community Council has argued that as the clock was presented to Portobello Burgh Council in 1868, whose responsibilities the City of Edinburgh Council took over in 1896, it remains in the authority’s ownership.

But the council has said the cost of reinstating the timepiece is not its responsibility, while the Baptist church has insisted it does not have ownership of the clock.

Community council chairman John Stewart said: “We want to raise some money towards reinstating the clock, but we can’t get any grant funding until we establish who the clock belongs to. At the moment, we can’t do anything.

“The clock is of great historical importance to Portobello. It seems such a great pity that although so much money has been spent by the council restoring the clock, there are no plans to have it reinstated.”
The clock was gifted to the town of Portobello to hang on its new town hall building in 1815.

The building it hangs on was designed in 1862 by the architect David Bryce as Portobello’s first town hall and was sold in 1878 when the second town hall was built. The Baptist church bought the building in 1920. Allistair Sinclair, of Portobello Baptist Church, said: “Our lawyers have assured us that nowhere in our deeds does it include the ownership of the clock.”

A spokesman for the city council said: “We’d be delighted to see the clock in its rightful place or another suitable location if funding can be identified.”