An update on the church clockwinding and bell ringers
Following our original article, a group of local volunteers led by Sam Johnson and Paul Brown have volunteered to take on the clock-winding duties so as to continue the tradition as long as possible and to maintain the clockworks in their original condition.
This is great news as it immediately reduces the capital needed to maintain the bell tower in condition and in regular use.
However, as always when dealing with old buildings, new issues have come to light and the main beam holding the east side of the ringing room floor in place looks to be in need replacement or, at least, to have a metal shoe placed over a substantial part of the southern end of the beam and for the beam to be raised a few inches to properly support and level the floor of the ringing chamber.
As we are keeping the original workings of the clock in place, the weights need to be properly boxed in with access points to allow maintenance and to provide a reasonably controlled environment of the clock workings.
Our recruitment drive for additional bell ringers has added four new members to the group who are all helping to develop our repertoire and to keep our ringing tradition alive. Chris Atkin, the tower captain and Chris Curry, the ringing master and the other ringers would welcome anyone who is thinking of trying this rewarding pastime. Our eight bells sound great when they can all be rung together.
The Wensleydale ringers are offering to run online beginners introductions to bell ringing again after the excellent response earlier this year. Over 20 new ringers have been recruited in Wensleydale and Swaledale and are continuing to ring in their respective towers.
The Parish Church of St.Andrew was extensively renovated in 1896 although the main footprint of the church dates back to Norman times - it gets a mention in the Domesday book! The church has strong links back to Bridlington Priory despite the distance between the buildings and the district boundaries that would have been crossed in those days.
During the intervening time, the church has been active in the dale and there are many memorable markers to its age and importance within the local community. There are various historic features such as the double-sided William and Mary coat of arms, the Norman font with its mediaeval cover and a considerable amount of mediaeval stained glass. The fabric of the church is maintained locally and is the responsibility of the church members. It is governed through the Church of England’s planning authority which lies within our Diocese of Leeds.
The bell tower houses a turret clock made by a famous local clockmaker, William Potts of Leeds.
William was born in December 1809 in Salt Yard, Bondgate, Darlington. His father Robert was apprenticed to a Darlington clockmaker in 1790. William followed in his footsteps and was apprenticed to Samuel Thompson, a Darlington clockmaker. Then, aged 24, he moved to Pudsey and established his own clockworks. In 1862, the business later moved to Leeds . The company was granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1897, the year after the clock was installed in the tower at St Andrew’s.
Three of William’s sons joined the firm. Robert eventually headed the firm whilst his brothers Tom and Charles both left to establish their own clockmaking business in 1928 and 1930 respectively.
In 1935 William Potts and Sons joined the Smith of Derby Group and the link with Smith’s is maintained via an annual clock service funded by the St. Andrew’s church to this day.
After a long and faithful service of weekly clock winding by Tom Guy - which only ceased upon his death,the clock is now wound each week by volunteers. This is a task which should be automated as fewer volunteers are available for this weekly task and, like the clock, they seem to be getting older every year!
At St Andrew’s the mechanism has an 8-day drive mechanism which means physically rewinding the clock every week. It also needs careful re-setting twice yearly when the clocks change, and this is a relatively complex process. The motive force comes from three weights which have a long drop into the bell tower below the clock. The clock itself is situated beneath the room housing the bells and is accessed by a steep ladder.
Currently the hammer controls for the clock striking mechanism run across the floor of the clock room providing a hazard to unwary visitors and is one of the reasons that the clock tower isn’t as accessible as we would like it to be for visitors.
The proposed automated winding system needs to be purpose built to fit into the frame containing the clock mechanism and also needs to be able to adjust the rate of the pendulum so that the clock is not only preserved but also remains useful and accurate with minimal manual oversight.
We have received a quote for this work and are looking to raise around £10,000 to allow us to complete the works.
Tom’s funeral donations were a start for this fundraising and we are now applying to a number of grant awarding bodies, but we will need to raise at least 50% of the funds from other sources to make the project viable.
In addition to the fundraising aspect, we would love younger members of the local community to step forward to take up the knowledge and training from existing volunteers and continue the task of overseeing the clock once the rewinder has been installed, to pass on this essential knowledge of caretaking this community asset.
Please watch out for announcements of local events to support this project or if you wish to make a donation, please contact either of the church wardens.
This project will show how work involving a range of the community, local people, professional clockmakers, and historical research can help develop a good conservation philosophy which will preserve the clock in an excellent working condition and serve the local community for future generations.