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Miles' Clocktower - Queen Street

Page updated 12 June 2009

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Detail of the Clocktower, Queen StreetLocated at the top of Queen Street, the Clock Tower has for many years acted as a prominent landmark when giving directions or as a place to meet. It was erected by Mrs Louisa A Miles in 1897 in memory of her husband who died in 1881 at the age of 81.

Miles had lived for many years in Dix's Field with his first wife who was older than him. Miles and Louisa had married in 1870 when Miles, a widower was 70 years old and Louisa then 50, in Western-Super-Mare. Miles was a retired army officer, Exeter Magistrate and philanthropist. He was an expert on animal welfare, especially horses. In 1846, Miles wrote the Treatise on the Horse's Foot which was the most authoritative book on the subject at that time, and remained so for the rest of the century.

In July 1877, Miles was concerned about the many horses that were plying between Exeter St David's Station and the city centre. He paid for a granite drinking fountain for horses to be placed in the centre of the intersection of New North Road, and Queens Street, known as the Quadrangle.

After his death, his widow, Louisa determined to build a lasting memorial to her husband in the same position as the horse fountain. It took several years for the plans to be finalised as they became more elaborate. The tower was designed by the 27 year old, local architect, Thomas A Andrews of Bedford Circus, who prepared all the detailed drawings himself, and moulded and prepared all the models for the sculptor. The bronzes were cast by Singer & Son of Frome who also manufactured all the wrought-iron lamps, since removed.

The tower was constructed by the local stone masons, J Easton and Sons, Paris Street, out of red Corsehill stone and Chudleigh limestone. The interior of the clock tower is hollow and contains a stairway to the top, allowing for the clockwork movements, to be wound (now electric). Each illuminated face is 4ft 6in in diameter. There is a large plaque on one side that bears the above inscription. The other three sides bear the text from the Book of Proverbs, the Miles' coat of arms and a door leading to the interior.

The contractor, J Easton made an error when quoting for the work, and underestimated the eventual cost, but completed the structure. Mrs Miles discovered the error and voluntarily paid an extra £300 as a gift, so that Easton's would not be out of pocket.

The original horse fountain is still in place, having been incorporated into the tower. The first horse to drink from the fountain after the Clocktower was opened, was the horse that had drawn Mrs Miles to the opening ceremony. Louisa Miles also funded the spire for St Leonard's Church - she died in 1907 at the age of 89.

in the sixty first year
of the
glorious reign of
Victoria Empress Queen
To perpetuate the beneficent work
William Miles Esq
of this city
on behalf of the animal creation
by his widow

In 1994 an electrician was called to find out why the light in one of the clock faces in the Clock Tower wasn't very bright. He found an empty, 80 year old Guinness bottle dating from 1913 blocking the light through the translucent clock face. The Guinness had been bottled at St Anne's Well Brewery, and had been left by a previous workman.

With the increase of traffic during the second half of the 20th century, the Clocktower has come in for criticism because of the poor traffic flow and accidents. There was a call to remove it, but it was made into a Grade II listed building and is now protected.

Sources: The Ironmonger 18 Feb 1899, Express and Echo and Flying Post.

The Clocktower, Queen Street
The Miles Clocktower at the Quadrangle.
The Clocktower, Queen Street A welcome drink at the Clocktower.

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