What has happened to Sheffield clock tower's famous faces, ask shoppers

Fred and Elsie in action at the clock tower (Stuart Hastings)Fred and Elsie in action at the clock tower (Stuart Hastings)
Fred and Elsie in action at the clock tower (Stuart Hastings)
They are two of Sheffield's best-known characters, but you may not have clocked their faces for a while.

People had grown used to seeing Fred and Elsie, the steel grinder and buffer girl, popping out every hour from the clock tower at Orchard Square shopping centre, in the heart of the city.

The pair are a nod to Sheffield's cutlery-making history, and they have been in residence at Orchard Square since the shopping centre opened in 1987.

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The clock tower todayThe clock tower today
The clock tower today

But it has been a while since they made an appearance, and their absence has not gone unnoticed.

What has happened to them remains a mystery, with bosses at the shopping centre yet to respond to The Star's enquiries, but visitors and shopkeepers say it is time they went back on show.

Barry Wittingham, aged 77, from Intake, said: "I came about three weeks ago on a Saturday and they were out, and there must have been about 20 people watching them. It's a popular feature."

Roy Jarvis, aged 68, from Aston, Rotherham, said: "They're a nice feature and I think they would be missed if they went for good. They're a bit of a novelty and children like to watch them going round."

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Barry WittinghamBarry Wittingham
Barry Wittingham

Carl Knight, a 56-year-old electrician from Mosborough, said: "It would be nice if they came back, though in the grand scheme of things it's neither here nor there.

"Sheffield's a big city with great people, and the potential is amazing, but we have a lot of catching up to do if we want to compete with cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham."

Mohammed Yasin, a 56-year-old disabled ex-taxi driver from Darnall, was visiting Orchard Square for the first time as he said it was hard for him to access given the lack of parking.

"The clock tower with the rotating characters is a nice idea. I wasn't aware of them before but it would be good to have them back as we're getting rid of traditions," he said.

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Mohammed YasinMohammed Yasin
Mohammed Yasin

Richard Bolam, who has been working as an artist-in-residence in one of the first-floor units, remembers Orchard Square being built and people coming to the city centre to watch the clock tower display.

"It was quite a thing when it was first installed. People would always stop and watch it. I think it would be popular if they got it working again," he said.

Michael Spencer, who has run a jewellery repairs business at the shopping centre for around 25 years, said: "To be honest, I hadn't even noticed they'd stopped coming out.

"I think it was OK in its heyday, when it was maintained properly. It was quite an attraction but it probably requires a lot of work. I think people would like to see it working again."

The Star has contacted Orchard Square shopping centre to find out what is happening with the clock tower, but we have yet to receive a response.

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