Caledonian Park Clock Tower and Heritage Centre

London Borough of Islington, 2019

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The Clock Tower in Caledonian Park was built in 1855 as the centrepiece of the Metropolitan Cattle Market; created on the 13 hectare site in the mid 19th century to replace Smithfield as London’s primary livestock market. The park has a fascinating history as the grounds of a 17th Century Estate, later a tea house, pleasure garden and demon­stration ground. Since the dissolution of the market in 1962, the Grade II* listed Clock Tower had fallen into disrepair. 

DJA were awarded the contract to design and deliver an HLF funded project, with the key aims to repair, conserve and improve access to the historic Clock Tower; and to create a new building for visitors and volunteers to support community activities in the park.

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The new Heritage Centre is a building that responds to its community through detail. Local residents desired openness yet security, a welcoming front and entrance to the park, maintaining views of the Clock Tower. Conservation Officers required a relationship to the tower and the surroundings through scale and use of materials. The Education & Activity Plan wanted a space for activity and learning and engagement with the Clock Tower. Park users required a Cafe and WC facilities, a place to connect to the sites history. Interpretation designers sought Interaction, a building which tells the story of the sites history. The Local Authority wanted a centre for the community, facilities to encourage recreation within the park, preser­vation of the sites history. Local Friends Group and Volunteers needed space for tools and equipment which allow people
to engage with the park and the tower.

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The new Heritage Centre is a pair of gate house’ buildings, of single story construction. The two buildings are set symmet­rically on each side of the axial northern entrance to the park, giving a generous public entrance and address’ to the park. 

The building to the east is arranged to provide facilities for park users. The Café has internal and external counters, and seating areas. A tool store for volunteers together with accessible WCs which are adjacent to the popular children’s play area and are accessed via an open east-facing terrace, with a trellis canopy.

On the west, the accom­mod­ation provides an Activity and Heritage room, with associated storage and accessible WC facility. There is an office space for the Park Ranger and Learning Officer, with external access. 

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Work to ensure the Clock Tower is watertight and struc­turally sound was prioritized, as well as sensitive conser­vation and repair to fabric including stone and render, replacement of the slate roof, the bell frame, the internal rainwater goods, repairs to the clock, weathervane, windows, staircases and both timber and yorkstone floors, stone cleaning and redec­or­ation. For improved access and safety, secondary handrails and a glazed balustrade were installed.

Specialists were engaged to restore the function­ality of the clock and bells to full working order, the entire clock mechanism overhauled by Smiths of Derby and the 3 bells restored in situ by Taylors whilst suspended from the scaffold allowing the bell frame to be completely replaced. The sound of the bells is important to the tower’s historical story; during the cattle market days the ringing bells signified the opening and closing of the market day.

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Historic Cally

Circa 1860. Credit:

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536 Cct 21 Heritage Centre South Elevation Taken By Bronze Architecture Ltd

Photo credit: Bronze Architecture Ltd

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The project was shortlisted for the AJ Architecture Awards 2019 for Heritage Project of the Year and 2018 Constructing Excellence Awards in the Preservation and Rejuvenation category. It was named by the Civic Trust as a 2020 Regional Finalist.

Client: London Borough of Islington

Filed to: Public and Community, Heritage, Arts and Museums