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The Water Clock on Short's Gardens, by Neal's Yard.


By Richard Jones

Walking along Shorts Gardens, you might easily miss the Neal's Yard Water Clock, were it not for the fact that your progress might be blocked by a group of amused and amazed tourists who will be looking up with beaming smiles on their faces.

You can't help but stop to see what it is that is causing such merriment and, as you incline your head upwards towards the source of their glee, your eyes focus upon a set of six green figures, each one dressed as though they've stepped out of Covent Garden's rustic past, and each one balancing precariously on a ledge above the Holland and Barrett shop sign.

A ladder and a tube rise over them and. above these, there is a large green clock, its single hand now perpetually frozen at the hour 1.


The clock was created in 1982 by the aquatic horologists (that's what it says on the plaque!) Tim Hunkin and Andy Plant. It originally adorned the front of Michael Loftus's Neal's Yard Wholefood Warehouse.

A Holland and Barrett Health Food shop now occupies the premises, but the clock is still there and has been delighting (as well as occasionally soaking) passersby below for over 30 years..

When the clock worked (it hasn't been fully functional for a while now) it was a wonderful sight to behold.


On the hour, regular as, well err, clockwork, water would tip from a tank on the roof and, via a set of metal vessels, it would cascade down the side of the building, causing a carefully arranged sequence of bells to chime as it descended towards the clock face.

Simultaneously, the row of green figures would proceed to tip their watering cans which would fill a tank, cunningly concealed behind the shop sign, in which were a series of plastic flowers, each one attached to a float.

As the water level rose in the tank, the flowers would rise with it, giving onlookers below the impression that the water had caused the flowers to grow.


There was, however, one figure that needed to be given a wide berth. The one on the far left had the ability to swivel outwards and then empty its watering can onto the heads of passersby below!

Back in 1982 such shenanigans was considered a hoot. Nowadays it might elicit an ASBO, so a drenching from on high is strictly off the cards, even if the Neal's Yard Water Clock were still fully functional.

It would be lovely to see the clock working again, but you just can't find a good aquatic horologist these days.