THE town clock is once again telling the time for Shoreham.
A complete overhaul, funded by an £11,500 grant from Adur’s Pot of Gold, was carried out on the clock last week by Cumbria Clock Company.
The Herald was given exclusive access to the tower at St Mary de Haura Church to see horological engineers Dave Clarke, 63, and his nephew, Luke Ridge, 27, at work.
David Rolf, chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s, said: “They are taking the clock completely apart and cleaning everything, then putting in new electrical motors and weights.
“They are also putting in an auto regulator, so summer and winter changes will be taken care of. Until now, someone has had to go up every summer and winter to alter the time.
“We won’t have to touch the clock at all now, it will just be maintained once a year by Cumria.”
Mr Clarke works on many large clocks, including those at Canterbury and Salisbury Cathedrals. He said such clocks are basically the same, but the situations they are in are very different, especially in private houses.
He has been in the business since 1965, when he was 15, and worked for Smith and Derby for many years, before moving to Cumbria Clock about seven years ago.
Over the years, he has been to Shoreham many times, and remembers the day he worked on the clock faces, which are on all four sides of the tower and can be seen from various places in the town centre.
“We did all the restoration work on the clock face,” he said. “I was working in flying scaffolding off the top of the tower seven or eight years ago.”
Inside the tower, the clock mechanism is housed in beautifully-crafted cupboard and pinned on the wall are all the record cards from over the years, with Mr Clarke’s name written in several places.
“All the parts have to stay with the clock,” explained Mr Clarke. “It is part of our heritage, once it’s gone, it’s gone. We try to utilise what is here, so you combine the old with the new.”
It means parts like the original handle for hand-winding the clock are still there, despite the first auto winder being in the 1970s.
Even then, changing the hour for British Summer Time had to be done by hand.
Mr Clarke added: “With the new auto winding system, the clock looks after itself, really. Before, it used to need winding twice a week. It was a commitment.”
And he should know, as he is responsible for winding the village clock in Coldridge, Devon, where he lives.
Work began last Tuesday, when the winders were removed and the clock was stripped and cleaned. Over three days, the clock was swept out, the plinths polished, the parts oiled and the auto winders installed.
Mr Clarke said: “The old auto winders were getting to the end of their life, but they did date back to 1974, so they have had their money’s worth out of them.
“You can’t get the parts any more, so we had to put in new ones.”
Mr Rolf said the Friends were grateful for the grant from Adur District Council, as the work could not have gone ahead without it.
Churchwarden Ian Tompkin added: “It is important that we are able to explain the nature of the work, as we are in receipt of a very generous capital grant from the the Adur Pot of Gold.”
The town clock, situated in the tower of St Mary de Haura Church, dates from 1896, when it was donated by the Hooper family in memory of the Rev Bretherton Hooper for the town and community of Shoreham.
Various maintenance works over many years have included the last full overhaul, in 1974, when auto-winders were fitted to replace the hand-winding system.
These auto-winders were coming to the end of their working life and, last year, another key part broke, putting the clock out of action for some months.
The Friends of St Mary’s Church made a successful grant application to Adur District Council’s Pot of Gold scheme last year, to meet the cost of a full overhaul and replacement of outdated parts.
Cumbria Clock Company hand-built the new auto-winders, regulator and other items at Castle Workshops, in Dacre, near Penrith.
David Rolf, chairman of the Friends, said: “Among the very few companies able to undertake such work, and as leading practitioners in their field, they maintain and service the clocks of, amongst others, the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben), many cathedrals, including Salisbury, Worcester and Hereford, and Hampton Court Palace.
“Now that the new parts have been fitted and the whole mechanism cleaned and reassembled, an annual light maintenance schedule has been contracted with them, which should safeguard the workings for at least the next 30 years and ensure that the clock remains a centrepiece for the town.”