An architectural competition was organised to design a new clock tower for the fashionable sea-side town of Brighton. Third Premiated Design was awarded to James M. MacLaren. Architects Henry Branch and Thomas Simpson were recorded as the winners, but their plans were never executed and the site stood vacant until 1888.
“The accompanying design was placed first in the recent competition. The building would occupy one of the best sites in Brighton, being at the junction of four main thoroughfares. Accommodation is provided for a public convenience below with the tower above, and forming an extraction shaft to same. The convenience is reached from the road-level by a straight flight of steps, and is lit by glazed areas surrounded by granite balustrades. The spaces left for street refuges are large and quite distinct from the entrance to convenience. The lower portion of tower is Portland stone ; the dial-chamber, ironwork; the roof, light wooden construction, dressed with copper. Provision is made for an electric ball which rises on a staff loft. high. The staff is wood, covered with copper ; and the ball is copper and gilded. When down, the ball is held in a cup -like frame of ironwork, also gilded. The extraction shafts from basement find their outlets at the grille forming base of dial-chamber. The estimated cost of design was £l,000, though £1,500 would probably be spent, as the site would warrant the extra expenditure. Messrs. Thomas Simpson and Henry Branch, of 63, High- street, Brighton, are the architects.” Perspective view & plans published in The Building News, July 22nd 1881.