Horley Church Clock Restoration


Clock motoHorley, has many times had the descriptive word ‘Timeless’ appended when describing the qualities of the village, and for many years now we have been ‘timeless’ in that the church clock has not been in a working state of repair, and hasn’t been heard since 2004, but now we are temporarily even more timeless, as the clock mechanism and one of the faces has been removed for restoration.


South facing clock North facing clock

During the process of rehanging the bells in the tower, the linkage that connected the clock mechanism to the hammer that struck the tenor bell, and the two clock faces  was removed to facilitate the removal of the bells.  At the time it was hoped that it would be a relatively simple process of re-installing it afterwards but not so.  It was found towards the final stages of rehanging the bells that a major beam was far more rotten than had been though to the extent that the whole beam would need to be replaced.  Whilst this beam was attached to the bell frame it was not vital to the integral strength of it but was vital in supporting the mechanism of the clock.  The new beam has been kindly donated by a village resident and can currently be seen near the bell ropes on the ground floor of the church.  If you notice it, you will see that it is in two halves whereas the original one it replaced was in one piece having been installed when the church tower was built.  Before the refurbished clock mechanism is returned later this year, this beam will be hoisted into place, drilled and secured to the tower wall and the bell-frame and the linkage re-attached.

Clock History – 1850 The Horley Curate, N J Pinwell  wrote in the church register:

“In the summer of 1850 when examining the interior of the beautiful church at Cropredy, I discovered a supernumerary clock, which had been cast aside by that parish upon the purchase of a more modern one. It struck me that it would be a very useful and desirable thing for Horley.  I then applied to J Loveday, Esq. of Wilmscote in Cropredy to endeavour to obtain it for me by purchase.  This he did and I purchased it accordingly.  I then mentioned it to my neighbour Mr Hitchcock and he then agreed to pay half the expense of the purchase and also to lend his cash for it.  These promises he fulfilled.  We then consulted together about the necessary repairs before mentioning the matter in vestry.  I enquired at Banbury a few days after, of two watchmakers I found. The repairs would be (without additions) from 15 to 20 pounds.  Thinking that the parish would object to the amount, I applied to a man of Hornton, a self  instructed clock maker C.Webb. He had done repairs to the dials when at Cropredy and thought that one was absolutely necessary and the other to be viewed from the school as desirable.  Webb’s estimate amounted to only five pounds and ten shillings besides the index to the interior (new) 30 shillings and a few trifles, altogether under eight pounds.  I produced the estimate to the next vestry and after some conversation between Mr Hitchcock (Clergyman’s church warden) Mr Gardner (Parish Warden) and Mr Hall, tenant of Miss Stuarts farm and Mr Goodman who rented the vicarage who were the parties with the Curate comprising The Vestry.  The entry of the estimate was entered in The Parish Book and I understood that I was to proceed.  On the faith of this I did so and then mentioned other matters absolutely necessary, to  W Hitchcock such as the dial stones, the making of the holes in the tower, putting up the dials (the drawings gilding and painting I did myself) he asked as to the top proprietary of these things and said he had to do as was proper and would be allowed, and so of the casing to keep the dust off and the addition at the top of the tower, it being too low so the weights, owing to the position of the tower (if this last had not been done) would have hung down to the pulpit.  When all was complete we brought the matter before the vestry, they refused to pay anything. After much talk Mr Hall recorded Mr Hitchcock’s liberal offer of five pounds and an offer of one pound from Mr Gardner though others present would give nothing and so it was left for the church to pay the rest how it could.  I wrote to Sir John Cope and he gave an order to his attorney for two guineas.  Miss Stuart gave ten shillings and her mother who had no property here, one pound.  I can hardly ask the vicar (Rev Sir John Seymour) as he has been at such enormous expense in repairing what others ought to have left in good order otherwise from his truly liberal spend.  I know he would not leave his curate with more than a fair share of this burden, especially as it is an expense incurred for the general good.  So much for Parish liberality and fairness!”

The clock was installed and functioned satisfactorily for near 100 years by a process of periodically, manually winding the weights back up every other day.  After WW2, Air Commodore Iliffe Cozens (Manor House) modified the mechanism, by installing a series of electric motors and relays making the need for weights redundant, and to run off the mains electricity supply, with a back-up of a large 12v battery to account for power cuts. He also installed an ingenious system of switches to advance or retard the time on the clock without the need to climb up the tower.

This worked well for the next 50 years, being run and maintained by Iliffe and the one or two ‘apprentices’ he educated in the intricacies  of the clock.  The last of these was Tom Anthistle, but after his untimely death in 2004 there was no one versed in the workings of the clock so it fell silent.

Now, Church Warden Tim Allitt has overseen a project to restore the clock and as a result funds have largely been accumulated from sources such as the National Lottery and local donations, enabling the chosen contractors, Cumbria Clocks to remove the clock workings and the South-facing dial, refurbish them at their works in Cumbria and re fit them in a similar form as that below.

Clock movement

Clock bits Clock componetsThe old mechanism was dismantled and lowered to the ground in manageable pieces, and the clock faces were dealt with by two abseilers suspended from the top of the tower, and lowering the pieces to the ground.  When the clock face was removed the original face was behind it and can still be seen in place until the new face is refitted, it appears to be made of stone or slate but intriguingly doesn’t bear the mysterious J’s or t’s that appear on the dial being refurbished.

Clock abseillers

It is hoped that by late spring the clock and all its works will be back and functioning again as it has done for over two centuries.

Mike Patching

(First published in Horley Views Magazine March 2016 edition)