joseph chamberlain clock tower by SW77

Joseph Chamberlain Clock Tower


Named after Joseph Chamberlain, the first chancellor of the University of Birmingham, the Joseph Chamberlain clock tower sits proudly in the centre of the university campus. The tower is known as ‘Old Joe’ by students, giving the name to ‘Joe’s Bar’ in the university Student’s Union.

Built between 1900 and 1908, the project was kick-started by an anonymous donation, now known to be from Sir Charles Holcroft. The clockface was built by Joyce of Whitchurch, which is over 5m in diameter.

The tower was the tallest structure in Birmingham until the introduction of the BT Tower in 1969. However, it still remains the largest freestanding clock tower in the world at around 99m high.

It has been suggested that the tower was inspiration for one of Tolkein’s ‘Two Towers’ in his ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, joining several monuments in Birmingham that may have influenced his writings.


The design of the tower was influenced by the Siena Town Hall in Italy. It is built in the Neo-Classical style, and is known as a ‘Campanile’ which is an Italian term for ‘bell tower’.

Notably, there is a central lift shaft up the centre of the tower, used by staff for maintenance. It was once open to students, but closed due to a suicide risk.

8188535903_af1f0c4a9c_bImage property of SW77

Fact file:

Location: University of Birmingham 
Built: 1900-1908
Style: Campanile
Status: Grade II 
Use: Clock tower

Further reading:

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