Festival time

Lewitt-Him Guinness clock designed for Festival of Britain 1951

There are a few recurring themes (dreams?) on Shelf Appeal these days. Inevitable, I suppose, as this blog has been around for a few years and I like certain things a lot. Lewitt-Him and the 1951 Festival of Britain are repeat offenders.

The Guinness Festival (of Britain) clock in this found photograph was designed by Lewitt-Him. Although the original Guinness clock sat amongst the trees in Battersea Pleasure Gardens, this photo is probably of one of the 8 travelling versions of the clock that were made. They went all over the country; including the 5th floor of Lewis’ store in Manchester and seaside locations various. There are some lonely, surreal looking images of the clocks on the web. I did a bit of detective work and this looks to be the clock that visited Weston-Super-Mare.

The visual theme of the clock was taken (naturally enough) from the Guinness animal character advertisements of the period. I’d urge you to go here for an excellent history of the clock(s) and follow the link to a pop-up of sketches and photos of the sequence this clock went through.

The Lewitt-Him-ness of the clock is evident in this photo even though it is in quiet mode and nothing much is happening. You can see clearly two seals balancing a glass of Guinness on their noses used as door handles. But every quarter-hour the show kicked off. A great description of the clock in action tells how music started, the top opened up to reveal a roundabout, toucans pecked a tree, an ostrich peeked out, a mad hatter caught a fish – that disgorged a smaller fish, that disgorged a smaller fish and so on.

Be still my heart. I would have loved to have seen one of these clocks.

4 Comments

  • Mark says:

    2 things; I like the ‘i’m on holiday, and my open collar proves it’; could’ve used that back in the day. But on the subject of entertaining clocks, I don’t suppose you ever saw the clock in Nottingham’s Victoria Centre (it may still be there)? All skeleton metalwork and, I think, water; it unveiled a flower-burst of trumpeting circling squirrels on the hour? A bit Kit Williams hippyish, but I loved it. (have just had to look it up, turns out it’s by Roland Emett of Far Tottering Railway fame, so there’s the FOB link, and not Kit Williamsish at all, oops!)

  • shelf appeal says:

    I don’t think I did see that clock, wonder if it is still there as it’d be worth a pilgrimage.

  • Viv Wilson says:

    For the past 27 years I have collected images, stories, information, artefacts and even people….everything to do with Teignmouth. S Devon. This has led to me writing 13 books about this place in the past. I also write a weekly “One Foot in the Past” article for Teignmouth Post and give slide shows and have also become a film maker too. I absolutely love doing it all
    Someone asked about an unusual clock so I turned up the image I had of the Guiness Clock that was on our seafront some time in the 1950s and got on to Google and found lots of fascinating stuff including your entry. Thank you- its great especially because as you are in it, it gives the scale that my image lacks!

  • shelf appeal says:

    Is your image online? Would be great to see it. It is the best thing about researching, isn’t it, the avenues you end up going down that you never expected to find.

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