Open all year round
An iconic Grade II listed building on the seafront, a reminder of the importance of the town to the navy in Georgian times, now a museum.
It stands on the site of an earlier shutter telegraph, one of a chain of 10 stations between the Admiralty telegraph in Southwark and the naval yard at Deal. The telegraph line which opened in 1796, allowed rapid communication between London and the naval anchorage in the Downs. From 1821 to 1831, the Tower carried a semaphore mast, which was used by the navy’s coast blockade against smugglers.
The timeball signal was established in 1855. The timeball, which fell at 1 pm precisely, was triggered by an electric signal so that ships could check their chronometers. It was administered by the Royal Observatory from 1864 until 1927 when it became obsolete and its operation was ceased.
The museum features exhibits about the history of the tower and its use for navigation, signalling and precision electrical timekeeping, and the mechanics of the operating timeball.
Owing to severe corrosion in its supporting mast, the Timeball has been out of service since early 2020. See The Timeball Website for latest infomation.
When in normal operation, the Timeball is programmed to drop every day at 1pm. Additionally, during the open season (1 April – 30 September) the ball drops hourly from 9am to 5pm. The Timeball is also normally programmed to drop at midnight on New Years’ Eve. The drop cycle is as follows: At 5 minutes to the hour the ball goes half way up; at 3 minutes to the hour it goes to the top of the mast and drops on the hour. The drop cycle is automatic. The Timeball is controlled by the MSF Radio Time Signal transmitter located at Anthorn, in Cumbria.
The museum is on four floors with no ramp or lift access. People with disabilities are advised to phone in advance. Coach trips and groups are also advised to contact us in advance.
Open all year round