The Churchill Clock

Bracken House is to be found sandwiched between Distaff Lane, Friday Street, Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street and is named after Brendan Bracken a close friend of Winston Churchill so close so rumour was that he was the illegitimate son of Churchill.

Contemporaries would accuse Bracken of bullying and being a liar, a boaster, capricious and a thick skinned loudmouth.

[B]rendan Bracken was the wartime Minister of Information supposedly the model George Orwell used for his Ministry of Truth in his seminal work 1984 and Big Brother (now a pretty prosaic television production) in Orwell’s book is said to be derived from Brendan Bracken’s initials.

Post-war Bracken was the Chairman of the Financial Times which had acquired the site from the City of London, Bracken then commissioned the President of the Royal Academy, Albert Richardson, to design a new headquarters for the financial publication – note how the pink brick and Hollington sandstone reflects the colour of the Financial Times newspaper.

Its island location built on sloping ground makes this a very curious building. A comprehensive history of this building, which was to become the first post-war listed property can be found at London Details.

The face of Churchill can be found on the astronomical clock on the Cannon Street flank, facing St. Paul’s Cathedral. Originally it was to be framed by Atlas figures (alas lost in the final design)

Clock-faceThe face of Churchill is at the centre of a golden sunburst, surrounded by gilded signs of the zodiac, on an azure background. Outside this are the names of the 12 months, then the 12 hours in Roman numerals and then the digits 5, 10, etc. up to 60. The day of the month is displayed in a window below Churchill’s face. There is another window to the upper right whose function is not clear. The different rings of the clock rotate so that the clock is read by just looking at what is currently at the top, where noon normally is on a more mundane time-piece.

What’s not clear is whether Bracken produced the idea of Churchill personifying Apollo, or whether Richardson did. The concept of Churchill as sun god would have been wholly characteristic of Bracken in its combination of whit with sycophancy.

Clock detail Churchill face by mira66 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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