Felsted church clock reinstalled after facelift

Left to right: Susan Barker of Stansted Airport Community Trust, Brian Moody of Essex Heritage Trust

Left to right: Susan Barker of Stansted Airport Community Trust, Brian Moody of Essex Heritage Trust, George Bellingham-Smith bell ringer and tower keeper at the church, The Rev Colin Taylor, and Marie Felton also of Stansted Airport Community Trust. - Credit: Archant

A village clock has been given a long-awaited facelift after spending over three hundred years at the Church of the Holy Cross.

Clock renovation

Clock renovation - Credit: Archant

George Bellingham-Smith, one of the Felsted church’s tower-keepers and bell-ringers, launched a campaign to raise funds for its restoration, gathering £7,547 for it over the course of a year.

“I am pleased it has been restored; I have had a long attachment to it,” he told the Broadcast.

“I have always had an interest in the clock and we wind it up when we are ringing the bell. We noticed that there was a problem with it when people started to say the time was wrong. It had lost its gilding and all of its numbers were faded – it was very difficult to read.”

In fact, so badly damaged was the clock-face that the timekeeper fell to pieces while it was being removed in May, and workmen discovered a host of other problems too.

Clock renovation

Clock renovation - Credit: Archant

Mr Bellingham-Smith said: “When we took it down we found jackdaws behind it, so when they were coming in and out they must have been levering it off the wall.

“We also found a crack in the church wall and had to get some people in to assess whether it was serious or not. It turned out it was not serious, but it took a while for it to go through, so we could not put the clock back until it was sorted.”

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He added: “We have inspectors come round to look at the church, but they obviously did not look very hard the last time; the clock is a fairly obvious feature.”

While the clock-face sits outside the church, the mechanisms, built in Great Dunmow, are kept in the bell chamber, and an inscription on the machinery reads, ‘Johannes Fordham, Dunmow Magna, Fecit 1701’.

Since its creation, the bell in the clock tower has been struck 18 million times and rings out 1,000 times a week.

Plans got underway after Mr Bellingham-Smith approached the parish council, who, along with village donations and the Felsted Events Committee, raised £3,571 for the cause; over half of the money needed to restore the clock.

He said: “We spoke to the vicar who said it was a community project and that we should ask the parish council. Luckily, they were willing to support us and said they would give us the money from the Tour de France camping site on the village green.”

Once more funding came through with a grant from Essex Heritage and donations from Stansted Airport Community Trust, restoration could begin.

The new clock-face was unveiled on Wednesday (July 15), with 40 people watching in the church’s grounds. Although there is no active way of maintaining its new face, the gold frame is thought to last for the next 50 years.