The church clock in the bell tower at All Hallows Church has to use the modern expression, has had a ‘make over.’ The clock was manufactured by the Leeds based company William Potts & Sons in 1919 and has been in service ever since. The company was taken over by the clockmaking firm Smith of Derby in 1933 and they have recently carried out an extensive refurbishment of the clock involving the modernisation of the winding mechanism.
I’m not sure how many clock enthusiasts we have in the village, so I will keep the technical jargon to a minimum. Here goes! This type of clock is referred to as a Flat Bed Strike Gravity Mechanism which means that is tells the time on the dial of the clock and strikes the hours on a bell within the tower. Now, in order to achieve this there are many interlinked chains, gears and levers, and such things as sprockets and weights and pulley’s, all very complicated stuff. This is demonstrated very well in the attached photo of the inner workings of our clock.
A major feature of the clock was that it depended on volunteers to wind up the clock mechanism, and the bell mechanism, once a week. I don’t know but judging by the size of the key I imagine it took considerable effort to complete the task.
The Church had a team of volunteers who undertook to wind up the clock once a week for a month at a time. I hope none of the volunteers will mind me saying that like the clock, the men were of a certain age, and as always, there were health and safety issues. Having just climbed the tower myself, your old editor, can testify that it’s no easy job to climb up the very narrow circular tower, with its thirty stone steps with only a rope to hold on too. I found it harder coming down, because you were almost reaching out into the unknown, feeling for the next step down. I later described the experience to my wife as like climbing a corkscrew.
The newly modernised clock eliminates entirely the need for hand-winding as the mechanism is now totally automated. ‘Hang on’ I hear you say, ‘won’t the clock still require manually changing for BST/GMT changes twice a year.’ The answer is no! Just as ‘Brexit means Brexit’ then Automated means Automated. The clock mechanism will stop the clock for one hour in October and for eleven hours in March, thereby moving the clock back one hour or forward one hour. The mechanism will also adjust the time on the clock if any ‘time drift’ should occur due to any changes in temperature, humidity etc; within the clock tower. There is also a battery backup unit installed to ensure the clock continues to work during power cuts.
The work was completed within three days by an engineer from Smith of Derby at a cost of £7000, which was only made possible by a generous grant from the Parish Council.
Now that the clock does not need winding up there will be no need for the item in the village Newsletter – ‘All Hallows Church Clock Winding Rota.’
But hang on there lads… don’t think your services will no longer be required… you’re forgetting the small print. There is always the small print. In this case the Diocesan Authorities requested that the equipment be manufactured and installed in such a way that it can be removed and the clock restored back to a hand wound mechanism, leaving no evidence that it was ever in place. Oh no! Somebody better keep the winding key safe, just in case.
Joking apart, the newly modernised church clock, as it moves towards its centenary birthday in 2019, will need only an yearly maintenance check. It should provide an excellent service for generations to come, and when the bell strikes the hour, we’ll know that the time is correct.
Somebody once said to me that whenever they hear the church bells it reminds them how lucky we are.
All that’s left for me to say is a big thank you to all those volunteers, who down the years, willing gave up their time, to climb the tower once a week, to wind the church clock. Well done to all!
Editor’s note: With thanks to Hilary Hallam-Gray (Smith of Derby) and Chris Bates (Church Warden).
Smith of Derby: http://www.smithofderby.com/products/automatic-winding/