Joyce Tower Clock


The extraordinary history and story of our church clock

The Clock in the tower at St Chad’s Church Hanmer, from its position high above the village, has told the time through its two faces to villagers and passers by for over a century. It was installed by the local firm Joyce of Whitchurch after a fire destroyed the interior of the church in 1889 and was ringing the hours by 1892 when the church reopened. It was the gift of Sara Tyrrell, the wife of Baron Harlech, one of whose three daughters had married into the local Kenyon family of Gredington in Hanmer.

The clock mechanism was adapted at that time by Joyce of Whitchurch from a clock made by Whitehurst in about 1825. It could have been wound for a full eight day cycle if the weights had been allowed a longer fall down into the ringing room, but the fall was terminated at the floor of the clock room. The platform on which the clock-master stands to regulate and wind the clock is made from adapted pews that survived the fire of 1889. The shelf nearby in 2000 contained one hundred years of the history of oilcans.

2007n For 105 years the clock was driven in the typical Joyce way by two large weights, which were wound upwards by wires passing over pulleys onto winding drums. The clock winder climbed the tower every five days to wind and reset the clock in the traditional way. The mechanism is uncased and the action of turning cogs, spindles and pendulum is fully exposed in the clock room. Cog chains and spindles convey the movement to the two clock faces on the south and east walls of the tower. Thus shoppers in Church Square or those waiting for the bus by the mere-side gates can check the time, as can parents arriving to deliver or collect children from the school. However with the absence of a west face this information is not allowed to disturb the concentration of pupils in the church school to the west.

Over the years the church congregation have had the clock repaired and serviced by Joyce of Whitchurch who are now part of the firm of Smiths of Derby. In 1996 the two faces were repainted and gilded during repairs to the tower.

At the end of August 1997 whilst returning down the ladder from the mechanism clock-master,  David Edwards, was overtaken by the weight when the cable snapped. The noise as the weight hit an iron plate ten metres below was deafening in the enclosed stone walls of the tower, and David showed great presence of mind in hanging on and not falling after the weight. Enquiries have since revealed that a similar thing happened about fifty years earlier when the weight smashed through the floorboards and plunged to the ringing floor below. The repaired floor was then reinforced with a large iron plate to guard against just such an eventuality. We are grateful to the foresight of those responsible for this precaution taken so long ago. We added a sand tray buffer to the precaution in the interest of some future clock winder.

In 1997, after that incident, the pulleys were repaired and winding wires replaced. In 2008 it became necessary for a full repair and servicing of the mechanism. It was dismantled completely and parts repaired or replaced in the Joyce workshop before being reassembled in the tower.

At the same time in 2008 automatic winding systems for clock and striker were fitted . These are electrically driven and have rechargeable batteries as support to ensure running through any power cuts. This has removed the need to manually wind every five days. It also ensures greater consistency and accuracy in telling the time. It is still necessary to adjust occasionally to ensure both faces tell exactly the same time. The heavy weights are no longer needed but are stored in the clock room.

The mechanism is not normally on open view but can be viewed by special arrangement (see contacts).

Entered 6th November 2013 last updated 19th October 2018 by Bill