The Church Clock

Photo:The Clockhouse and Font, Ashwell Church

The Clockhouse and Font, Ashwell Church

From a print by G Buckler, 1841

Photo:John Sale switches on the new electric clock with the help of Eric Gurney, 1971

John Sale switches on the new electric clock with the help of Eric Gurney, 1971

A Short History

By Peter Greener

From the churchwardens accounts for the year 1563 4d was paid for a lock to the clockhouse. This means there must have been a clock in the church by then. The Clockhouse contained all the workings of the clock and looked like a large wardrobe. It probably stood at the bottom of the tower as shown in the illustration. You can see the marks high on the wall where the ropes went up to the bells. This clock had no face; time was marked by the bells.

The accounts show that some expense was incurred almost every year, usually for oil or wire. However in 1603 we read: ‘It was concluded that when the clock maker mended this owld clock being heer about 5 days that he should have for that and in consideration in bargayn for our new clock over and above fowerty shillings (£2.00) five shillings to be payd presently.’ So it seems that by 1603 the old clock had worn out and new one was bought to replace it.

This clock or another of its successors chimed out the hours until 1896 when thanks to a generous bequest from Joseph Butler Westrope a new one was installed with the added innovation of clock faces. The story goes that faces on only 3 sides were erected so the workers at Fordhams Brewery would not be distracted by always looking at the time.

By 1971 this was in need of repair, the Parish Council assumed responsibility. £1,617 was raised to complete the overhaul and electrification of the clock. At a service of thanksgiving the Rector dedicated the clock to the welfare and benefit of the people of Ashwell. The clock was started by John Sale and Robert Sheldrick. John Sale had been present at the dedication in 1896 and as a veteran churchwarden had been a major fundraiser for the clock. Robert Sheldrick had been winding the clock for many years but would still carry on looking after it in its new electric powered state.

Thanks for information to David Short from Snippets of Ashwell's History Vol 1 and to Albert Sheldrick from Ashwell Village Life in War and Peace, 1939-1975.

This page was added on 09/01/2013.

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