The idea of a clock for the British Army and Royal Navy garrison at Halifax is credited to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who arranged for a turret clock to be manufactured before his return to England in 1800. It is said that Prince Edward, then commander-in-chief of all military forces in British North America, wished to resolve the tardiness of the local garrison.
The clock tower is a three-tiered (three storey), irregular octagon tower built atop a one storey white clapboard building of classic Palladian proportions. It was erected on the east slope of Citadel Hill facing Barrack (now Brunswick) Street. The clock face is 4-sided displaying Roman numerals. As with most clocks the "4" is shown as IIII for aesthetic symmetry and not as IV.
The clock mechanism was constructed by the "House of Vulliamy", respected Royal Clockmakers based in London. It is driven by three weights, gears, and a 13-foot pendulum with the mechanism being housed in a cast iron frame located in the "clock room", immediately below the belfry. Its bell strikes hourly and quarterly and the durability of the mechanism (which dates to the original installation) is attributed to its slow movement.
The Town Clock began keeping time for the garrison on October 20, 1803.
The tower housing the Town Clock has been used in the past as a guard room and as a residence for the clock caretaker. Restoration work on the Town Clock has taken place at various times during the 20th century, with the property passing into the care of Parks Canada, which has responsibility for the Citadel Hill National Historic Site. The caretaker position ceased in 1965 with its maintenance now being performed by Citadel Hill employees who wind the clock mechanism twice weekly.
A major restoration project in 1990 saw the exterior façade of the Town Clock building returned to its original Georgian appearance. Another restoration in 2005 saw the clock face undergo extensive rehabilitation.
As a Halifax icon, the Town Clock has featured in many artwork, fictional and non-fictional accounts of Halifax. One among many is a depiction of the town clock as a character named Chimey in the children's television show Theodore Tugboat.