Parish church to restore famous ‘one-handed’ clock
The tower clock at the Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul Edenbridge is one of the oldest in the Diocese of Rochester and is unusual for having a single hand.
The clock face is mounted on the west side of the tower above the ringing chamber, with gold Roman numerals on the black domed fascia. The mechanism is of particular interest for its wrought-iron frame and hand-made fastenings. Installed high up in the tower, it has an internal frame mounted brass clock face engraved with just 48 markings for one complete rotation (thus four graduations is equal to five minutes) and bearing the date that it was made in 1738 by George Clarke White Chappel - now Whitechapel - in London.
Originally erected at the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark (which had been rebuilt and consecrated two years earlier) it was replaced there in 1795 and acquired by St Peter & St Paul Edenbridge, where it has been ever since. There is no record of whether it was a gift or whether it was purchased.
George Clarke (1725-1766) was a clock and watchmaker with a workshop in Leadenhall Street where he is said to have mostly produced 'Turkish style' clocks for customers in the Ottoman Empire. In the year that the Edenbridge clock was made, George II was on the throne, Robert Walpole became our first prime minister and John Wesley established The Methodist Movement.
To maintain its operation the clock required daily manual rewinding, for both the timepiece and the striking mechanism, which called for a churchwarden, tower captain and various other people over the centuries to clamber up the tower's spiral staircase to manually rewind it and periodically reset the time. It is likely that the clock never kept accurate time, and probably ran fast all its life, and it was probably altered on a regular basis.
Following a survey of the instrument in 2012, concern was raised about the condition of the steel wires supporting the weights, and therefore the clock was stopped and the weights removed until funds could be raised to expedite repair/restoration. The location of the weights, which dropped on their wires down a shaft in the tower was of concern, being immediately above the main electricity cupboard. Also, when considering the church's Health & Safety Policy, it was regarded as unsafe for a person to be alone in the tower in the event of an accident or becoming ill, especially as those historically involved with the rewinding were often quite advanced in years. A later examination by Keith Scobie-Youngs, Diocesan Clock Advisor, revealed the possibility of using an automated winding system and pendulum regulator. It was decided to proceed with this course of action which would enable moving the weights into the bell tower directly, away from potentially risky areas, and obviate the need to manually wind the clock every day!
The project, costing £10,000, involved the repair and overhaul of the clock mechanisms, automation of the winding system, and the installation of an electronic regulator that times the pendulum against a known time-base and very accurate internal clock, and gives the pendulum a nudge when necessary to maintain accurate time.
The restoration of the clock was made possible with donations from a number of individuals, The Great Stone Bridge Trust, The Edenbridge Rotary Club and Kent County Council.
To mark the WW1 centenary in November 2014, a small granite memorial was installed in the church yard opposite the clock at the West end of the church. The memorial was donated by Alex Jones Funeral Directors and dedicated at the beginning of the Remembrance Day Service.