A historic reminder of Hull’s rich maritime heritage has reclaimed its coveted position on Hull’s skyline, ready to be fully unveiled for a centenary celebration in 2022.
The city’s newly restored Guildhall Greenwich Time Ball – one of the last to be built in the UK and one of only a handful remaining nationally – has been lifted back into its position on top of the building’s clocktower, 60 metres above the city’s streets.
While glimpses of the timepiece through scaffolding will now be on offer, the time ball will be fully revealed in all its glory when it is brought back into full working order in spring 2022, marking 100 years since the ball last dropped.
The unveiling will coincide with the completion of restoration works at The Guildhall, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Hull City Council, which also includes improvements to the clock tower and its historic stonework in a £452,000 makeover.
Part of Hull’s ambitious multi-million-pound project, Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City, which will revitalise the city’s rich seafaring heritage attractions, the restoration has included covering the ball in 23.5 carat, double thickness English gold leaf.
Dating back to 1918, it is the highest time ball in the UK and the only timepiece of its kind on a municipal building, As well as the timepiece itself, a weathervane, modelled on an 18th century merchant ship, will also be installed, as part of the restoration work.
Originally designed to show the time to ships on the Humber and the River Hull, the ball dropped down a pole at a specific time, allowing navigators to verify the setting of their maritime chronometers.
While it was completed in 1918, the ball needed re-gilding in early 1921 and may only have worked until 1922 when the original motor was removed, and a replica replaced it in the early 1980s after the mechanism fell into disrepair.
Now experts have restored the mechanism, and the time ball will soon become a new tourist attraction.
Once complete, visitors will not only be able to watch the ball rise and fall – dropping at 12.00 GMT during the winter months and 13.00 BST during the summer – but they will also be able to see the ball’s working mechanisms for the first time via a virtual tour.
Other features will include an interpretation station and a specially designed interactive pod, which will tell the story through hands-on, multi-sensory learning. The historic stories of the time ball will be brought to life by an animation, a shadow puppetry film and music developed in partnership with Hull Minster carillonneur.
As well as once again becoming an iconic feature of the city’s skyline, the restoration of the time ball, along with the renovation of the tower, are part of the city’s five-year project that will see some of its most historic attractions expanded and improved, creating new visitor attractions.
Making Hull’s 800 years of seafaring history even more of a key part of the city’s tourism offer, the Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project will ultimately create a new route to guide visitors through the city to the River Hull, highlighting its outstanding maritime heritage.
Building on Hull’s legacy as the 2017 UK City of Culture, Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City is a £30m project that will see the refurbishment and preservation of four historic maritime sites and two historic ships. Once completed, which is expected to be 2024, Hull will offer visitors a chance to chart a course through the city’s history, exploring its connections and contributions to the UK and the world.
For a unique view of the time ball, drone footage of Hull’s Time Ball being lifted more than 70 metres and installed on the Guildhall clock tower can be seen at https://bit.ly/3BQ3pHS.
For more details about the Maritime City project, visit https://maritimehull.co.uk.
For all other tourism information about Hull, see www.visithull.org.
Photo: Hull Maritime project, Hull City Council