Did you know you would have to climb 280 steps to reach the top of the clock tower at Old City Hall? It’s located at 60 Queen St W in Toronto. The square, off-centre tower that once had an elevator is over 87 m high and is at the axis of Bay St.
When the clock was installed in the tower at Old City Hall, it was the largest striking clock in the “New World.” It was designed and manufactured by world-renown clockmakers and bellfounders Gillett & Johnson of Croydon, England. The company was founded in 1844 and is still in business today.
There are four clock dials, and they are each 6 metres in diameter and in total weigh 15,240 kg. The hands-on the clocks are 203 kg. The minute hands move a distance of 0.4 km each day as they go around the dial. That’s a total of 147 km each year. The clock is operated by three sets of weights that are wound by an electric motor. Those driving weights are a total of 2,286 kg.
There are three bells in the clock tower. The hour-striking bell, the largest, weighs 5,588 kg. It was said to be heard at a distance of 32 km, and the hammer that strikes it is 113 kg. The two smaller bells are quarter bells. According to historical photos, the bells first pealed on New Year’s Eve 1900 to ring in the new century. However, other sources say it could have first rung a full year earlier on December 31, 1899, as the system installation had to be in place by January 1, 1900.
When do the Bells Chime?
The quarter chime train strikes one time on each of the small bells at 1/4 past the hour, two times for the 1/2 hour, three times for the 1/4 to the hour and four times for the hour. The hour train will then strike the number of hours.
The clock tower originally had four stone gargoyles; however, in the 1930s, they were removed as they became a hazard. One broke off and came crashing through the roof of Old City Hall. More than six decades later, they were replaced during a restoration completed in 2003. The cast bronze gargoyles are 3 m long and watch over the majestic building again.