The third in our series focusing on Wavertree brings us to the tale of time itself. We remain on the High Street and take a look up to the Picton Clock Tower and its remarkable tale of tick, tock, love and grief. By Joseph Viney.

If you’re going to mark the passage of time, then you might as well do it in style. Wavertree’s Picton Clock Tower is a true monument, testament and obelisk to the rich history of the area and, like any good timepiece, it has kept life ticking over with its melodically metronomic pace.

Picton Clock Tower was a gift to the people of Wavertree from Sir James Picton, given in 1884. He designed it in memory of his wife, Sarah Pooley, the two having been married for fifty years prior to her passing in 1879, and it provided Picton with the creative impetus to stop him sinking altogether into his grief.

The tower stands as tall as that determination, at the junction of Childwall Road, Church Road North and the High Street, and takes pride of the place in the centre of a roundabout that brings the three busy roads together. Crossing the road (carefully, these days!) and standing at the base of the quietly imposing tower will grant you access to its inscription… a message of hope crafted in a dark time: “Time wasted is existence; used is life”.

It is of great credit to the pluck and ingenuity of James Picton that he gave the people of Wavertree such warm words during what may well have been the most difficult time in his life. In the same spot, a second inscription finds the Picton Clock Tower dedicated to “his beloved wife Sarah Pooley”. Where time was the cruel master that stole away Picton’s wife, her final tribute commands the time of one whole part of Liverpool.

Anecdotal evidence has it that in the days before watches and digital timepieces were either affordable or available, mothers would instruct their children to “go and see what the time is by Sarah Pooley” and it is said that Picton chose the site deliberately, so that it could be viewed by as many of Wavertree’s residents as possible at any given time.

The site was originally given over to what was known locally as ‘The Big Lamp’ – essentially a marker for travellers looking to find their way from Wavertree and on to the neighbouring villages of Childwall, Old Swan and Gateacre. Indeed, the tower is more than just the sum of its cogs… from the centrepiece of the historic village of Wavertree, to a meeting place for friends, family and lovers, it remains the all-seeing eye of the area. Go and stand there today or tomorrow and imagine 132 years of history whirling around your feet – the sights, the sounds and the smells.

We can all tell the time… but what if the time could tell all?

Further reading in the series:
Wavertree: The Monks’ Well
Wavertree #2: The Lock-Up


Pic courtesy Tower Images