Marston Green Centenary Clock

To mark Bickenhill Parish Council’s centenary (1894-1994), a 14-foot clock tower was installed in August 1997 at the top end of Marston Green’s Garden of Memory between Station Road and Elmdon Road. The clock was inaugurated at 3pm on 14th September 1997 and has since become an iconic part of Marston Green.

Around 200 people turned up at 3pm on 14th September 1997 to see the unveiling of the dedication, which was made in memory of Parish Councillor George Aston (1932-1996). He had been a Councillor of Bickenhill Parish Council, representing Marston Green ward, for 20 years and was Chairman at the time of his death.

The suggestion of a Centenary Clock for the village was apparently made by George Aston in 1994. Donations towards the £10,000 cost were received over the next three years from residents and businesses in Marston Green, the Parish Council and the Aston Family.

One of the fundraising events was a Country and Western evening, held on 25th January 1997 by Marston Green Horticultural Society, of which George Aston was a former President.

Originally, the clock was to have been of brick construction but this didn’t come to fruition and Councillor Bob Sleigh had the job of finding a pillar clockmaker.

He and the parish councillors eventually obtained the clock from Smiths of Derby, and it was during this period of looking for the right clock that George Aston passed away. It was then decided that the clock would celebrate 100 years of the Parish Council but also be dedicated as a memorial to George as past Chairman and parish councillor.

Dedication on the Marston Green Centenary Clock

Bickenhill Parish Council

Bickenhill Parish Council came into being after the 1894 Local Government Act which stated that if a parish had more than 300 people living there, a parish council should be established with the number of parish councillors decided by the County Council.

Bickenhill Parish had 515 residents on the 1891 Census so Warwickshire County Council allocated six councillors for Bickenhill based on the size of the population. Parish councillors would serve for one year each, with new councillors taking office on 15th of April each year.

The first elections for Bickenhill Parish Council took place on Monday 17th December 1894.

In 2015, Bickenhill Parish Council changed its name to Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council. The logo includes representations of St Peter’s Church, Bickenhill, and the Centenary Clock at Marston Green, demonstrating the clock’s importance to the village.

Parish Council logo, by kind permission of the Chair of Bickenhill & Marston Green Parish Council

George Aston

George Aston was born on 23rd March 1932 in Marston Green. His father (Reginald Frank Aston (1903-1984)) and his grandfather (Frank Round Aston (1875-1952)) were both butchers. George also became a butcher and had his own shop at 9 Land Lane, Marston Green.

George had married Sheila Farley in 1953 and they went on to have a son and two daughters. George Aston died on 10th July 1996, aged 64.

Sheila Aston said in the Baptist Free Church newsletter of July 1996:

George, as Chairman of the Parish Council, together with his fellow councillors, were setting up a fund (to which several firms have already pledged contributions) to build a Millennium clock in the village of Marston Green. We as a family, feel that as he had been a councillor for twenty years, it would be a fitting tribute to George too. In three years’ time, if the clock development fails to materialise, all monies collected by the family will be donated to a charity of their choice.

Installation of the Centenary Clock

The clock installation fulfilled the Aston family’s wish, alongside commemorating the Parish Council’s centenary. On the day of the installation, there was a slight delay as it was stated that a permit was needed in order to have a crane on the roadside. After some discussion the matter was resolved so that the clock could be put in as planned.

Robert Taylor, former Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands and former Director of Birmingham Airport, attended the installation and announced that the airport would maintain the clock for the future, servicing it every year. He also gave something to each school in the area – Marston Green Infants and Juniors, and Merstone School which was situated in Marston Green until its move to Smiths Wood in 2006.

Fittingly, Sheila Aston unveiled the dedication on the clock, and there were prayers of dedication from the Priest in charge of Bickenhill, Reverend John Eyles and the priest at St Leonard’s Church, Reverend Roy Allen.

The Infant School children provided a display of country dancing, and the Junior School orchestra played music in the Parish Hall.

Audrey Laight, Chair of Bickenhill Parish Council introduced the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Peter Hogarth, who made a speech and commented on the wonderful atmosphere in Marston Green and how it had retained the village feel. He also talked about the contribution George Aston had made to the community.

There was a community tea in the Parish Hall after the ceremonial unveiling.

All in all, it was a day to remember with the community all coming together to make it a truly fitting tribute to democracy in the local area, commemorating a man who was part of the local community and part of its democratic history.

The clock appeared on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson when he claimed that the Motor Show wasn’t in Birmingham but in a little village called Marston Green as he stood alongside it.

If you have any further information, or any photos of the unveiling and dedication, please let us know.

Karen
Marston Green Library

email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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