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
WINSLOW. AN ACROSTIC.
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.

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.


1929: Buckingham Advertiser, 15 June

.”The Bells! How Many a Tale – “
CHURCH CLOCK’S DOLEFUL APPEAL
“WASH MY FACE AND CLEAN MY HANDS.”

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.

DO COME TO OUR AID.

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 26 July, 2020