Photos | 12 stone putties lifted onto Hull’s Guildhall

Three workers in hi-vis jackets and hard hats manoeuvre some of the 12 stone putties into place. Hobson & Porter lifted the stones into place at Hull's Guildhall by crane.
Hobson & Porter lifted the stones into place at Hull’s Guildhall by crane

Construction firm Hobson & Porter has lifted 12 unique stone putties into position on the historic Guildhall in Hull.

The company, which has already completed a major re-roofing programme at the Guildhall, is also restoring its time ball.

The time ball dates to 1918. Its function was to raise shortly before a prescribed hour and then drop at a precise moment (normally 12 noon). The visual signal gave the exact time to ships in the harbour and estuary and allowed them to calibrate their chronometers.

A crane lifts the stone putties 70m into the air at Hull's Guildhall
A crane begins lifting the stone putties to 70m at Hull’s Guildhall

But the time ball fell into disrepair. Hobson & Porter has been restoring it and its internal mechanism during phase two of the restoration of Hull’s Guildhall.

Stonework restoration

It has also been making improvements and repairs to the clock tower and its stonework.

This month, the company lifted 12 sections of Portland stone, weighing a total of five tonnes, 70m into the air by crane. It lowered each onto a specially built reinforced deck above the clock tower. Stonemasons from building restoration company Stone Edge have repaired or replaced each piece of stone.

Three workers guide the stone putties into place on a specially built reinforced deck at Hull's Guildhall
Three workers guide the stone putties into place on a specially built reinforced deck

The stones support the bowl that the 50kg time ball will drop into. The ball is set to drop at 12 noon each day in winter and 1pm during summer. 

Liam Brown, site manager from Hobson & Porter, said: “This was a precarious part of the project. Each of these pieces of stone has either been restored or newly made, and each one had to be lifted and carefully, manually moved into position to sit below the new weathervane, which has been modelled on an 18th century merchant ship, and the new time ball, which is the highest in the UK.

“This is a crucial and unique feature within Hull’s Maritime Project and will preserve part of the city’s maritime history, so it’s been a real pleasure to oversee this latest successful milestone in the Guildhall’s impressive restoration.”

Only a handful of time balls left

Councillor Mike Ross, leader of Hull City Council, said: “It is great to see National Lottery Heritage Fund investing in one of Hull’s historic buildings like this.

“The time ball is an important timepiece in Hull’s maritime history, and I am looking forward to seeing the time ball work once again, 100 years since it last dropped.”

When work completes later this year, the Guildhall time ball will become one of only a handful of other working time balls in the UK. They include time balls at Greenwich in London, Carlton Hill in Edinburgh, two in Kent and one in Brighton.

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