Page last updated at 23:04 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 00:04 UK

Historic timepiece to be restored

The Nelson Column
The time ball enabled captains in Leith docks to set their chronometers

Part of an endangered historic monument on Edinburgh's Calton Hill could be saved due to a 50,000 donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The time ball, which is located on top of the Nelson Monument, has been used since 1852 to allow ship captains in the Forth to set their clocks.

The grant will be used to repair the dilapidated timepiece, which has been damaged by storms.

Stonework repairs will also be carried out on the monument itself.

The time ball enabled captains in Leith docks to set their chronometers accurately, by observing the dropping of the ball at 1300 GMT each day.

Nine years later, the one o'clock gun at Edinburgh Castle was added to give an audible signal.

'Maritime history'

The gearing mechanism for the time ball has not operated for more than 18 months.

Some of the cogs are also worn and parts of the supporting timber structure needs to be replaced.

The city council's culture leader, Deirdre Brock, said: "Edinburgh's time ball is an important piece of maritime history and helped many a vessel plot a safe course across the open seas in years gone by.

"We are delighted to be able to have it restored to its former glory - it's a fascinating timepiece that will be seen working from miles around so I'm sure it will help many people across the city to set their clocks in the future."

The work is part of the Twelve Monuments, a partnership between Edinburgh World Heritage and Edinburgh City Council.

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