The Four-faced Liar
One of Barnstaple's more eccentric characters has been standing in the town's square since 1862, facing simultaneously in all four directions with the intent of providing both residents and visitors with the time of day.
This character is locally-known as the "Four-faced Liar" and is the clock tower and fountain built as a memorial to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who died in 1861.
The memorial was designed by the local Borough Surveyor, R D Gould, and built by a local builder, John Pulseford, with the total bill of 216 pounds being raised by public subscription.
Even from its inauguration the structure has attracted infamy. According to the North Devon Journal:
"On the opening day, December 13, a year after Albert's death, ex-mayor Mr Norrington set the 15ft pendulum of the clock going and it immediately struck the hour.
Before Mr Norrington could take the first drink from a new fountain built with the clock, a man stepped forward and threw "about a teacup-full of what his olfactory nerves soon convinced him was gin".
Norrington, a teetotaller, was horrified. The culprit was John Baker, the landlord of the Mermaid Inn, a Tory who had won his seat "by beer and bribery"."
This was the only occasion that all four faces of the clock actually showed the correct time as a design fault in the mechanism caused each face to show a slightly different setting of the minute hand.
In subsequent years the clock was never majorly repaired, making do with occasional readjustments when the timings became completely wayward. By another account, once again in the Journal, it seems that during a local Trades Exhibition in the 1930's the clock was covered in scaffold to hide its lying faces from visiting VIP's whilst at the same time local residents and businesses were pleaded with to spruce up their gardens. This prompted one local businessman, A G Symmonds, a Funeral Director, to enter a satirical replica in the carnival that year.
In 2008 the Square and the Memorial Clock Tower have been part of a major refurbishment of the centre of Barnstaple and the local council decided that the principle of "once a liar, always a liar" should hold true and so despite a complete refit the clock will still tell slightly different times on each of its faces - BTW the train station is a 10 minute walk away (give or take a couple of minutes)!