The History of the Dragon Clock

Commissioned by wealthy coal barons of the day, The Coal Exchange was the brainchild of Frederick de Courcy Hamilton and designed by architect Edwin Seward.

Seward was said to have an unlimited budget to ensure The Coal Exchange exterior and interior met the demand of the barons. The need to deliver a sense of opulence and grandeur were reported to be paramount among their requests.

In 1911, Cardiff’s coal industry set the world standard for the price of coal, giving Seward yet more financial levy to embellish the plush interior of The Coal Exchange.

Sparing no expense, The Coal Exchange building became a reflection of the wealth associated with Cardiff. Now home to some striking original features such as stunning carved wooden panels and intricate statues that dwell alongside Corinthian columns and artistically detailed ceilings.

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The most prominent feature, perhaps, is the Dragon Clock at the head of what was once the trading hall. Still in full working order, the clock is a constant reminder of the affluence of Cardiff during the heydey of coal shipping.

The clockmakers

The Dragon Clock is an extremely ornate creation. It’s facade in keeping with the decadence of The Coal Exchanges’ original design. The Dragon Clock was created by Cardiff-based clockmakers, and goldsmiths Spiridion & Son.

A stunning example of the firm’s mastery, The Dragon Clock is mounted in ornate wood panelling, flanked by two ferocious looking dragons.

The back of the clock can be accessed by two small doors that reveal the intricate inner workings of the piece whcih are all still fully operational today.

Spiridion was known first and foremost as a respected clockmaker, originally immigrating to Wales from Poland in 1855.

When his son joined the company the firm became sought after jewellers and goldsmiths. Famously, Spiridion and Sons were commissioned to create a commemorative medal for the official Royal visit opening Alexandra docks.

Spiridion and Son’s work is still sold today at the country’s leading auction houses, popular pieces include ornate mantle clocks and fine jewellery.

Pieces of Spiridion’s Cardiff commissioned work can be seen across the city most notably on the clock tower of Cardiff’s St David’s hospital.

“Tempus Fugit”

crowded trade floor

This is the Latin phrase is inscribed below the two elaborately carved dragons, a representation for the fragility of time.

During peak business, The Coal Exchange trading floor would have been filled with 200 merchants and vendors all jostling and bartering for the best coal trade prices.

The two dragons staring down from the clock underlined with their powerful message encouraged traders to seize the day with the inscription “Tempus Fugit” continuing to remain relevant today.

As much as Cardiff enjoyed a time of extreme wealth during the heydey of coal shipping, the coal price plummeted after WW1 which subsiquently plunged the city into depression.

The Dragon Clock, much like The Coal Exchange itself, keeps us thinking about the effect time can have on us all.

The Exchange Hotel

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We can now restore the grandeur and prosperity of The Coal Exchange Square with The Dragon Clock remaining intact as part of Signature Living’s Exchange Hotel.

What was once the bustling trade hall will now be a venue from which stunning events will be held.

Wedding fayres, celebratory occasions all overlooked by ever-important message beneath The Dragon Clock.

An everlasting reminder for us to enjoy the time we have together and the memories Signature Living will help create at Exchange Hotel.