The Fire Station Clock, by Thomas Mercer

The Alresford Museum was recently presented with a brass cased clock, labelled as by Mercer of St Albans, which was used in the Fire Station in Alresford. The intention is for it to be displayed alongside the Merryweather fire engine now on display by the Museum, in the Old Fire Station in Broad Street.


Since the clock was not running, the Alresford Men’s Shed were asked if they could investigate, and see if it could be repaired. The clock is in a large brass body, giving a nautical appearance, but the bezel round the glass of the front cover is plated silver. This is marked “AP W 6578 SERIAL No M.V.779”. The clock is mounted on a modern 8-sided mahogany display board.

During the investigations at the Men’s Shed, the clock was removed from the board, and on the back of the clock the words “Alresford Fire Service” had been scratched, and then crossed out later, to be replaced with the second scratched name of “Hampshire Fire Service”.

Inside, it appeared that the clock had basically been prevented from working by mountains of congealed dust and dirt, although the insides were also much modified, with some bits missing, and evidence of earlier rough repairs. The side casing has several holes, possibly for attaching external alarms or devices, which would have allowed easy access for dust and dirt.

The clock was put back into operation, and worked well for the first day, but has once again stopped.


Searches on the internet suggest that this was indeed a clock made for use on board ship. Thomas Mercer of St Albans made marine chronometers, precision clocks that helped ships navigate the oceans. However this clock was probably one of a simpler design made in large numbers around WW2, particularly for use on the bridge of merchantmen travelling in convoys across the Atlantic. It was commonly referred to as a ‘Zig-zag convoy clock’, as every half hour the merchant vessels would change course onto another tack, as the next leg of the zig-zag.

A recently advertised similar clock, with the same markings and Serial number, was described by Oliver Sargent Antiques as an ‘Octavia’ model, and their example was fitted with the Bakelite electrical connector box above the holes on the top of the clock case.

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