The Tale of Ann Thwaytes
The clock tower in Herne Bay was built in 1837 with a donation from Ann Thwaytes, who so enjoyed her holidays in Herne Bay between 1834 and 1840 that she donated £4,000 for the building (over £250,000 in today’s money). It is believed to be the first freestanding, purpose-built clock tower in the world.
Ann Thwaytes regularly stayed with friends at 30 Marine Terrace, Central Parade when in Herne Bay. She’s often referred to as an eccentric - and she certainly had an unusual life!
Ann was born in London on 2nd October 1789. She had a sister, Sarah, who was a year older and their mother was called Mrs Hook but she was unmarried - they were of poor origins. Their mother died when the girls were 14 and 15 and so they had to get work.
Ann’s sister Sarah became housekeeper to the wealthy William Thwaytes who had a grocery and tea merchant business. In 1817, when she was 28, Ann married William Thwaytes - he being aged 67. It seems a difficult marriage with Ann accusing William of trying to poison her and in time Ann developed a nervous disorder - at one time she sat facing a wall for ten weeks believing herself to be blind. She also had extreme religious beliefs.
Her sister Sarah had married and was left as a widow with seven children when her husband died in 1833. In 1834 Ann’s husband died at the age of 85, leaving her the sole beneficiary of his fortune of £500,000 (today being over £34 million) - they had no children. Ann cared for Sarah financially, but they had a difficult relationship - it seems Ann had several difficult relationships! Ann went on to ‘splash the cash’ until she died at the age of 76.
On the opening day of the Clock Tower, 2nd October 1837 (Ann’s birthday), there was a festival followed by annual commemoration festivals which may also have been funded by Mrs Thwaytes. She left town - in what was said to be of temper - in 1840 and never returned to Herne Bay.
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