There was quite a stir in Southampton’s High Street and Above Bar at noon on December 9, 1889, when a dignified mayoral procession made its way through the watching crowds at the start of a special ceremony.

Unfortunately all the pomp and seriousness of the event, that took place 120 years ago this month, would later turn into a farce, much to the embarrassment of one local politician.

However, the procession solemnly set off walking passed the churches of Holy Rood, St. Lawrence and All Saints, as well as three hotels, the Dolphin, the Star and the Crown.

The town, as it was then, was busy and the horse trams jingled and rumbled their way along the roads.

Through the Bargate and into Above Bar the procession moved and on to Palmerston Park at the junction with New Road.

Southampton people had watched with interest what they could manage to see behind scaffolding, and at last they were to be rewarded with a full view of a shining new clock tower.

Together with aldermen and councillors in their civic robes, there was a large gathering of local dignitaries wearing top-hats and frock coats while some of the older men still wore the once-favoured luxuriant side-whiskers.

The women wore fashionable jackets over long, silk dresses, the skirts sweeping the pavement as they walked. Fur trimmed scarves kept the cold air at bay and bonnets, decorated with ostrich feathers, were all in the best possible taste.

It was indeed an impressive occasion as the mayor, James Bishop, inaugurated Southampton’s new landmark which was described at the time as: “A noble clock tower in the Early Gothic style having four dials and a drinking fountain, with a trough for cattle and horses and at the foot on the north and south sides, little troughs for dogs. The drinking fountain itself was on the west and had its own cup suspended on a chain.’’ Everything was going as planned, and after the unveiling the mayor stepped inside the tower to turn on the water.

A newspaper report at the time takes up the story: “The water gushed forth with such power that one of the company, Alderman Burford, was well drenched, an incident which provided more amusement to the general populace than to the unfortunate politician.’’ The clock tower, which cost £1,000, had been bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, who always “cared for man and beast’’. It served a real need in those far off days when horses were still familiar sights on local streets.

But times changed; horses had nearly all disappeared, cattle were no longer driven through the main streets, and even dogs were discouraged from roaming unchecked in the ever-increasing traffic.

Then in the mid-1930s the day came when the local authority decided the clock tower had to go due to road improvements and at first there were fears that it would be demolished.

Fortunately it was then decided it should be positioned at Bitterne Park Triangle in a fine position overlooking the Itchen and Riverside Park.

The four clock faces still mark the passing of time but there is no longer the need to provide water “for man and beast’’.