The Tomkins family were wealthy maltsters during the eighteenth century and built Abingdon’s three grandest houses, Stratton House in Bath Street, The Clock House in Ock Street and Twickenham House in East St Helen Street.
The Clock House dates from the 1720s. It was probably designed by Samuel Westbrook, a local builder, and it was built for Benjamin Tomkins and his wife Sarah. Their initials, BTS, are carved into the brickwork above the outermost first floor windows. The house is built entirely of brick. The unusual paired central front doors seem to be original but it is not known why this arrangement was chosen.
The open courtyard with its central clock tower is to the east of the house and was added some 30 years later. It included a stable and a service block, and was designed by Robert Taylor who became a leading architect of his time. The extension of the house into the courtyard is a later addition.
The Clock House continued to be lived in by members of the Tomkins family until 1850 when it was sold by auction and divided up.
In subsequent years different parts of the property were used as dwellings, and by a variety of businesses and organisations. The Mechanics Institute moved into the left wing of the courtyard in 1857. It was succeeded in 1881 by The Beaconsfield Working Men’s Conservative Club. The added oriel window on the Ock Street face of the left wing dates from this time. It is decorated with relief portraits of three late nineteenth century Conservative statesmen including Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli).
The whole complex was converted into offices in the mid-1980s.
The courtyard and out-buildings are separately listed at grade II (reference nos. 1048864; 1199729; 1283229; 1368303).
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