On a tour of Belfast in Northern Ireland you will undoubtedly find yourself face to face with a lofty leaning tower. This is the tower of the Albert Memorial Clock, one of Belfast’s best known and most iconic landmarks, and it has leaned for over a century. Located in Queen’s Square, this clock tower exists as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s dearly departed husband, Prince Albert.
After Prince Albert’s 1861 death, the city of Belfast held a competition for the design of a memorial in his honour. The competition took place in 1865 and was won by W. J. Barre, offering new life to a Belfast lacking in architectural landmarks. However, the contract was secretly awarded to the second place finisher, Lanyon, Lynn, and Lanyon, for reasons unknown. The truth eventually spread and Barre was finally awarded his due. The 34-metre tall sandstone clock tower was completed in 1869 in both French and Italian Gothic architectural styles. The tower showcases flying buttresses, heraldic lions, a statue of Prince Albert himself dressed in the robes of a Knight of the Garter, and it’s topped with a two tonne bell and clock.
Shortly after the tower’s completion, it began to lean significantly due to its construction on marshy land near the River Farset. Not only was the integrity of the structure in jeopardy, the accuracy of the clock itself suffered as well. The clock tower’s tilt threw off the sway of the pendulum, thus resulting in skewed timing. In 2002, thorough efforts were made to remedy the leaning issue that were mostly successful. Today, you can still notice a lean though a far less obvious one than what was observed in the early 20th century.
Another significant update to the clock tower occurred in the year 2000. After 130 years, the clock was finally electrified—what once had to be manually wound could now be wound electronically. Previously, it required a climb of 140 steps, twice annually to wind the clock. At last, the 19th century memorial clock had finally caught up to modern times.
Visiting the Albert Memorial Clock
The Albert Memorial Clock can be found at the east end of High Street in Queen’s Square, always displaying the correct time. At one time in history a location of questionable morals, Queen’s Square has been brought back to life and now presents a welcoming atmosphere for all visitors. The surrounding area has been updated into a hospitable, modern public space with trees, dancing fountains, and beautiful sculptures. A visit to the Albert Memorial Clock is included on most tours of Belfast but can be explored on your own as well.
The tall, leaning Albert Memorial Clock is hard to miss when in Belfast. Towering over Queen’s Square, this beautiful piece of architecture is a must-see on any tour of the city. Often described as a cross between Big Ben and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, no Belfast holiday album would be complete without at least one photo of the Albert Memorial Clock.