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Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada

The Old Town Clock

Old Town Clock, Halifax Old Town Clock
© Parks Canada/B. Schmeisser

The year was 1800, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was preparing to return to England. Obsessed with punctuality, the Commander-in-Chief of the British military made a parting gift to Halifax: a town clock on the hill overlooking Brunswick Street. This way, he could ensure the city's forces were always on time.

The Old Town Clock, as it is now known, was installed in October 1803. It has since become one of the city’s most beloved and familiar landmarks. Nestled in the protective shadow of the Halifax Citadel, it has seen some alterations over the years and was largely reconstructed by Parks Canada in the early 1960s. Yet the original clockworks are still intact and in use.

A timepiece for all time

Designed by Prince Edward’s engineer in 1801, the Old Town Clock is a three-tier octagon tower set atop a Palladian-style building. Its signature timepiece bears the craftsmanship of the House of Vulliamy, a famous family of royal clockmakers based in London.

Operated and maintained by Parks Canada, the clock is powered by three weights on drums, each suspended on a long cable. As the clock is wound, the cables pull the weights up. Gradually, these weights drop, causing the drums to rotate and setting the clock in motion. To minimize stress on the mechanism, the Old Town Clock is wound twice weekly. And it continues to keep all who live in Halifax on time, just as it has for generations.

Town Clock mechanism Town Clock mechanismWeights and cables that power the clock Town Clock mechanism and the weights and cables that power the clock
© Parks Canada/G. Hill


Learn more:

You can view historical photos of the Old Town Clock by visiting Nova Scotia Archives' online photo gallery.