A Historic Moment In Time
On Friday 29th June 2012, the community of Colnbrook came together to celebrate the unveiling of the Village’s new clock. Commissioned to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II, the day was made a truly royal occasion by the attendance of HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. In what was an extremely busy year for the Royal Family, the Palace recognised the significance of this occasion for the residents of Colnbrook and chose to help mark the occasion, almost 109 years to the day since the Village’s original clock was unveiled.
Clocks Part & Present
The last clock to sit in the centre of the village was paid for by public subscription, to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in August 1902 and was installed on the wall of a hairdresser/barber shop next to Platt’s store until this was demolished around 1935. Over forty years later the clock was found, in poor condition, stored in a Coach House in the High St, at which point a fund was established to repair and re-install the clock somewhere in the village. A local engineer, Mr D Coates, renovated the clock but nowhere suitable could be found to mount it and so it was then kept in a room in the local bakery together with the old horse drawn Fire Tender and both could be viewed through the window. The bakery was later demolished and the clock and Fire Tender were moved to The Ostrich Inn. In 1999 the Parish Council started to look at the possibility of mounting the clock somewhere to commemorate the new millennium. However this proved unachievable, so, in 2009 the decision was made to buy a purpose made freestanding replacement clock.
A history of Royal visits
When the Parish Council embarked on the project it seemed only fitting to invite someone from the Palace, given the history of Royal visits to the village.
In 1516 Henry VIII is reputed to have stayed in the Catherine Wheel Inn (Abingdon House) and then in 1544 he granted Colnbrook the status of a Borough with rights to hold a weekly market and two annual fairs.
In 1558 Princess Elizabeth stayed for one night in The George Inn and nearly eighty years later, in 1635 Charles II granted Colnbrook a new Borough Charter, a first for Colnbrook.
Whilst initially a royal visit was considered an ambitious aim, a promising early response from the Palace gave hope and after much correspondence it was confirmed that the Duchess would be very pleased to unveil the clock; she had never before performed such a ceremony. The secrecy and security surrounding the Royal Family meant that preparations had to be completed at haste with a limited number of people aware of the actual date of the visit. This proved a rather challenging task and many meetings were held with Palace personnel, the Lord Lieutenants office and the security services. An outline of the event was agreed including a display of the history of the old clock, a visit to The Ostrich Inn to see the old clock itself and performances by Pippins School and the Colnbrook C of E Primary School before the unveiling ceremony. A final suggestion by the Duchess’ private secretary was that it would be nice to have a brass band playing background music. At short notice the Minden Band of the Queen’s Division agreed to play – the perfect choice for a royal visit.
The Parish coming together
Having agreed an itinerary, all manner of logistical and security arrangements needed to be made by the Parish Council, which required the co-operation and support of much of the community. This included The Ostrich facilitating the visit to the old clock; The George Inn providing refreshments for guests and the band; Nisa Local manicuring their front garden and creating a flower centrepiece, the provision of transport for the band provided free of charge by a local company TGM and of course all the preparations by children and teachers at both schools! Finally, the installation of the clock itself, which needed to be installed just a couple of days before the ceremony.
On the day itself, all the planning came to fruition, and was topped by the last minute beautiful weather ensuring a wonderful day was enjoyed by all, as evidenced by the sea of smiling faces in this book. Even when the unveiling device didn’t quite operate to plan the Duchess took it in her stride and shared in a joke with all those present. After 77 years without one, the community celebrated the return of a clock as a centrepiece to the Village.