Sunday, 17 June 2012

Old Joe, University of Birmingham


Old Joe is the clocktower at the University of Birmingham’s main Edgbaston campus. I can remember staring at this clock when I was a child, as we went past on the train into town. I can remember knowing that one day I would go to the University of Birmingham and study there. It was also how I knew we were nearly home – look for the clock face illuminated over Selly Oak. I suspect many people still do this today.

I got lost in the area of Bournbrook a few months ago; I saw Old Joe rising through the trees and I ended up finding my way to the Bristol Road. He’s a good egg.

Anyway! Old Joe is a freestanding clock tower, and is quite tall (~100m) and was built without scaffolding, which for the early 20th Century was quite an achievement.


Many students are suspicious of Old Joe – there is a myth (fact?) that if you walk under the tower as it chimes, you will fail your exams. Also, if it chimes 13 you’ll fail your degree. I’ve both stood underneath as it chimed, and heard it chime 13. Guess I’ve got no chance then!

More information can be read here and here. There is a breeding pair of peregrine falcons nesting at the top and they return every year. They can be heard and seen flying around the top of the tower in Spring. The inscription around the edge says;

"THIS TOWER COMMEMORATES THE FOUNDING OF THE UNIVERSITY THROUGH THE INITIATIVE AND ACTIVE ENCOURAGEMENT OF ITS FIRST CHANCELLOR THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN" [Wiki]

As an aside, I read an article that stated the Edgbaston campus was the inspiration for Isengard of LOTR fame – this provided quite a laugh, but I wonder…

L x

Photo was taken by me on June 10th.

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