The church clock

We don't so far know when Winslow church first acquired a clock or (presumably later) a dial. When a new clock was installed in 1885 it was thought that the previous one dated to the 1660s, but it wasn't necessarily the first clock. Until clocks started to appear in houses, which in Winslow only happened at the end of the 17th century, the church would have provided the only way apart from observing the sun for people to know the time. It's clear from elsewhere (e.g. Wing) that repairing and maintaining the chuch clock was a constant expense for the churchwardens. The present arrangement with three dials wasn't part of the 1883 restoration plans and was added slightly later; previously there was apparently only a dial on the south side of the tower.

Early photograph of the church from the south
South front of the church, with clock dial, 1862

c.1735: Browne Willis' description of the church refers to "a Clock & Chimes"

1757: Church inventory includes "a Clock & chime"

1810: Church inventory incudes "A Clock and Chimes"

1846: Churchwardens' accounts, 25 March
For Winding up the Clocks and Chimes and attending the same One year: £2

1869: Bicester Herald, 8 Jan
W hen foolish people by their conduct
I nvite disease, their health impair,
N ever singly bear their sorrow
S uffering friends and neighbours share.
L ist then friends and fellow-townsmen
O nce you would not pass me by
W hy the change of late come o’er thee

C ans’t thou wonder if I sigh?
H ave I merited thy censure?
U seless, say you, always wrong?
R ather change your tone to pity,
C an I help what age has done?
H ere I’ve served and outliv’d ages

C ased in walls, amid the dead,
L ong exposure, worn and rusty,
O ft I think my time nigh sped.
C eaceless murmurs won't improve me
K eep me sound or else remove me.
Winslow, January 2, 1869.

1869: Vestry
George Maydon and T.P. Willis agreed to pay for the "winding up of the Church Clock and Chimes up to Easter 1870".

1872: Vestry
Mr Neal produced his Account for winding the Clock and Chimes and the same was passed.
It was also resolved that W. Jennings should in future collect the subscriptions for ringing the daily Bells and Winding the Clock and Chimes

1881: Bicester Herald, 1 April
  WINSLOW CHURCH CLOCK.- The dial of the church clock is being re-painted and figured.  The clock would be of more service to the public if its face were turned round so as to be visible from the street.  Who will move to bring about the desirable alteration?

1882: Rev. A.M. Preston paid for painting and gilding the clock (read more).

1884: Buckingham Advertiser, 29 Nov
Mr. [D.T.] Willis has bequeathed £250 towards the improvement of the clock and chimes, and is in contemplation to make the latter (which now play the tune of "St. David" every three hours,) chime the quarters.

1885: Bucks Herald, 19 Sep
NEW CHURCH CLOCK AND CHIME. - The generous bequest of the late Mr. D. T. Willis of £250 for erecting a new clock and chimes in the Church Tower, has just been carried into effect, and will prove extremely serviceable, the sound being distinctly audible all over the town.  The clock is fitted with all the latest improvements to ensure accuracy of performance, and will maintain time to within fifteen seconds a month.  It chimes the Cambridge quarters upon four bells, strikes the hour upon the largest bell, and shows the time on three octagon dials each six feet across.  There is also special machinery for playing the tune St. David, which in all probability has been chimed from the tower for about 220 years every three hours.  The main frame of the clock is of one solid piece of iron, planed smooth and true, with all the various wheels and levers affixed to it by screws in such a manner that any separate one may be removed without interfering with the remainder.  It has a double three-legged grand escapement driving a pendulum of 2 cwt., which is itself compensated for the changes in the temperature.  A simple iron pendulum is liable to lose in the summer and gain in the winter, but by an ingenious arrangement of zinc and iron tubes this one will always remain the same effective length.   The clock is also fitted with apparatus to continue the action during winding.  Its motive power is given by four weights descending the south-east corner of the tower and which are carried by four steel ropes.  It is fitted with a glass case in the ringing chamber, and has a small dial on the clock movement by which the time can be seen by the ringers.  The whole of the work has been carried out by Messrs. John Smith and Sons, Midland Clock Works, Derby.  The clock was started on the 8th inst. by Mrs. [Sarah Cowley] Willis, at seven o’clock in the evening, after which a special service was held in the Church, the Rev. D. Greig, of Addington, preaching the sermon.  Several of the neighbouring clergy were present in addition to the Vicar and the Rev. F. R. B  Pinhorn, curate.  There was a very large congregation.

1898: Some repairs to the clock were carried out at the expense of Mrs Willis (see 1898 Vestry).

1918: anonymous poem printed by A.J. Clear. It was actually written by W.H. Turnham and later published in his "All-Sorts".

                                   Oct. 20, 1918.
                                    Please listen to my wail,
Your Parish Clock must tell his doleful tale,
For I am ill, and my complaint is this -
Appendicitis plus paralysis.
What I’ve endured you may have some faint notion,
You know I’ve been for months without a motion,
I cannot move a hand of all my six,
You all must own I’m in an awful fix;
Some say a dose of oil would cure my ills
And move my poor insides, I can’t take pills,
But I am quite convinced that my salvation
Depends upon a speedy operation.
And then again, besides this feeling bad,
The thought of what I’ve come to makes me sad;
Once, young and old of high and low degree
In confidence and trust looked up to me.
The busy man, who hurried to his train,
The maiden fair, who went to meet her swain,
The boys and girls, upon their way to school,
All put their trust in me, it was the rule,
While I, that trust, endeavoured to repay
By pointing with my hands the time of day.
I also, in those past and happy times,
Marked every quarter on my silver chimes,
Struck all the hours upon my biggest bell
And played each third, St. David’s tune as well.
But now - ah me! scarce one who passes by,
Troubles himself or cares to raise his eye
To scan my face, a stranger may perchance
Look up to me with an inquiring glance,
But soon his look betrays profound mistrust,
Which quickly changes into strong disgust;
I feel, I cannot help my deep disgrace,
And hate the falsehood written on my face,
For I, no matter what the hour may be,
Proclaim to all who look - 11.3.
Neglected, all alone, up in my tower,
All silently I pass each cheerless hour,
My only boast, that since I have been sick -
No man can say I’ve ever “gone on tick,”
Yet I am poor, as poor as I can be,
And so I ask you folks to send to me
A skilful doctor, who will undertake
The cure of all my grievous ills and make
The operation I require - ah then
I know my poor insides will move again,
I shall be free once more in every motion,
Ready to serve you with renewed devotion,
No longer the despised, the useless crock,
                        Truly yours,
                                    THE WINSLOW PARISH CLOCK.

1929: Buckingham Advertiser, 15 June

.”The Bells! How Many a Tale – “

Recently the bells of St. Laurence’s Church, Winslow, were returned.  Evidently this has caused a little jealousy in the Church Tower, causing the Clock Faces to make the following quaint appeal on their own behalf, in the Winslow Parish Magazine for June:-

Dear Clock Gazers, - In 1885 A.D. we took up our abode on the sides of the tower of your beautiful old Parish Church, and although the other dwellers in the tower have especially of late, received marked attention, we silent ones seem to have been entirely overlooked.  This disrespect towards us touches our dignity, and makes us feel our position very keenly.  Having unflinchingly weathered storm and tempest for this long period we do now feel a wee bit grimy, and respectfully ask that our faces and hands may be washed and cleaned and our attire renovated.


True, our open dispositions make our countenances appear not too dull and dismal, but we have somewhat lost that smiling, golden radiance which has beamed down on passers by for the past generation, and who from day to day have looked up to us for timely guidance in every passing hour.  Although our indoor co workers are constantly “on strike,” we stedfastly [sic] and unceasingly travel on life’s round of duty, showing a guiding hand to rich and poor, old and young alike.  Our exalted positions (plus a few nuts and bolts) prevent our descension for the purpose of soliciting on our own behalf, but we do know that some of our friends, on the earth below, who are interested in our welfare, have made enquiries; and that to restore our features (?) to the lustre and brightness of youth will cost £15 15s., or one shilling and ninepence per facial minute.  We should not have told you all this, only we do not want you to frown on us when we are rejuvenated, and it is then too late for you to show your appreciation of our ever ready and devoted service to the parish during the past half-century. – We remain, your faithful servants, The Three-Clock Faces.

Copyright 16 January, 2022