New year saved by Steve

He's the man who saved New Year for hundreds of town centre revellers - not that any of them would know it.

IPSWICH: He's the man who saved New Year for hundreds of town centre revellers - not that any of them would know it.

The antique Town Hall clock stalled early in the afternoon on New Year's Eve and only the quick thinking of technician Stephen Mann saved the day - or night.

Unbeknownst to hundreds of people partying on the Cornhill waiting for the hands to reach midnight, Mr Mann was inside the clock tower and operating the pendulum by hand, setting off the chimes manually while using the speaking clock as a guide through his mobile phone.

Mr Mann, who lives in Woodbridge Road, said: “The pendulum had stopped working and we made the decision to do it by hand. I rang up the speaking clock and had it on speakerphone.

“You have to be very careful because it's very old and fragile. It was an unusual way to spend New Year's Eve - I won't forget this one.”

A former BBC technician, Mr Mann fulfils all sorts of jobs at the Borough Council's Town Hall building as well as the Regent Theatre and was helping out behind the bar at a busy party for 400 people in the Corn Exchange when he was called into action.

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He said: “It was a bit unusual bit we couldn't let them down. I'm a technician at the Town Hall but I help out at the Regent and I'm the projectionist for the films at the Corn Exchange. I've been doing it for 12 years now.

“I was working anyway, I was on duty, but it was so busy I was multi-tasking. People thought it was quite funny to have to go up the tower, they were saying 'good luck with the chimes'.”

Town Hall manager James Young said Mr Mann and his quick thinking had helped prevent a potential New Year disaster.

He said: “The Corn Exchange was busy, there was a great event going on in the Grand Hall. We realised that the clock had stopped in the afternoon but we thought there would be a fair number of people who collect outside the Town Hall.

“Steve saved the day. It was a real team effort and everybody pulled together. People do listen out for the chimes at 12 midnight.

“We couldn't just push it around - it's not as simple as that. It's a pendulum and he had to get it exactly at the right time to get the chimes.”

In the end, everything went like clockwork and the celebrations went off at the correct moment, but the clock is now stopped at 12.05 - preserving the midnight hour for the people of Ipswich for a few more days before it is repaired properly by a clock expert.

nThe clock mechanism was constructed in 1867 by famous London firm Dent and was installed in the Town Hall when it opened the following year.

nThe inscription on the plaque reads: “By special appointment to the Queen and HRH the Prince of Wales, 1867, 61 Strand, London.”

nDent was founded by Edward John Dent, one of England's most skilled watchmakers, in 1840.

nIn 1852 the company, based in The Strand, won the commission to make the great clock for the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

nDent died in 1853 aged 62 before completing the project but the work was finished by his stepson Frederick Dent.

nThe firm was passed down through the family but ceased trading in the 1970s.