What lies beneath

Since the entrance was sealed over with concrete in the 1960s, the toilets under Stroud’s Four Clocks have been forgotten by most.

Sims’ Clock, commonly known as the Four Clocks, sits at the junction of Kendrick Street, George Street, Russell Street and London Road. The junction is surprisingly recent. Its medieval-feeling tangle was completed only in 1872, when Kendrick Street was cut, smoothly connecting the trains, the Subs, and the High Street. It became the natural place for the popular horse-bus to Chalford to stop and turn, and in the 1890s the recently-formed Stroud Urban District Council provided the facilities horse-drawn vehicle drivers might appreciate: an underground gent’s toilets, a shelter (resembling a miniature Swiss garden shed), and a weighty horse trough. The shelter soon disappeared, but the trough stayed watering horses for many years – Stroud’s first motor buses might’ve appeared in 1905, but it was a while before they could cope with all of our valleys and roads.

Sims’ Clock arrived in 1921, in the space between the trough and the toilets – things Sims may himself have campaigned for as an SUDC member from 1894 to 1902.

The trough went, then the toilets were finally sealed off in 1963 as SUDC bought the Subs and opened the Bedford St loos. The Clock was restored in ’64, and the familiar triangle of paving around its base created. Rather than fill the toilets in, they were capped with a slab and are still there. What’s been totally lost is their grand entrance: thick iron bollards chained together marking the boundary of the site, tall wrought-iron railings around the steps and gas-lamp lighting – at least until Sims’ electrically-lit Clock was installed.

William Sims never saw his clock. He was a local merchant who did well out of Stroud’s Victorian boom. When he died in 1917 he left £2000 so Stroud’s poor could have Christmas dinner, and £1000 so the town could have an illuminated clock.

Stroud’s stonemasons were too busy for clocks in the post-War years, but in 1920 public demand and the Subs’ owners’ reluctance to cede land on their forecourt saw Sims’ Clock earmarked as the town’s war memorial in its current location. A base was balanced on the toilet cubicle walls, and the 24-foot Bath stone tower balanced on top of that, with plenty of space on its sides to commemorate the Great War dead. But Sidney Park, bereaved by the War, gave Park Gardens to the town in 1927 as a memorial. So Sims’ Clock became just a clock, and today one of Stroud’s principal landmarks.

Photographs courtesy of Stroud Town Council archives. Research and conjecture by Dmytro Bojaniwskyj.