St Andrew’s Parish Church Clock


Some information about the 18th century Clock…..

St Andrew's church clock mechanism

St Andrew’s church clock mechanism

…..and Carillon

St Andrew's church carillon mechanism

St Andrew’s church carillon mechanism

The Clock

The church clock was made in 1732 by William Monk (1689-1753) of Berwick St John in Wiltshire, a prolific clockmaker.  It replaced a previous clock made before 1675.
The clock has the distinctive Monk ‘tulip’ finials on each corner post and characteristic clock frame, the “birdcage” type, with vertical pinion bars held by nuts at the bottom and iron wedges at the top; the top horizontal bar of the frame is set “edge on”.   It is one of only a very few turret clocks made by William Monk that are still going – the others are in Broadchalke, Sherborne Abbey, Wimborne Minster.
The cost of the clock was £8 plus “a further 6 shillings for transport by horse and cart to Fontmell Magna”.  This compares with £10 12s. 0d. for the clock at Tarrant Gunville, £25 (including carriage) for the Sherborne Abbey clock, and £25 plus the cost of carriage, ropes and wire for the Wimborne Minster clock.
William Monk Turret Clocks describes the clock as a:  “two train clock made by William Monk.  It has been so altered that it takes some thought to puzzle out how the clock first looked.  Made as a thirty hour clock, the trains have been extended upwards to increase the going period.  Other clocks, such as that at Witchampton, have been extended downwards by the provision of new great wheels.  Subsequently and more recently, electric winding has been fitted, hence the miles of “bicycle chain” and the large aluminium wheels”.

St Andrew's church clock winding mechanism

St Andrew’s church clock winding mechanism

The conversion to electric winding was made in 1978 or 1979 by Philip Pickford of Fontmell Magna using the Hygans Endless Chain System.  Before this, the two clock weights, one for the time and one for the striking mechanism, weighing 3½ cwt., extended down a shaft 21 feet into the ringing chamber.  These were wound by hand gear.

Before 1903, no pictures or prints show an outside clock face, so the local inhabitants must have relied on the church clock striking the hours.

St Andrew's Parish Church

According to Dorset Church and Public Clocks, the clock face was first fitted in 1903.  However, a plaque in the clock chamber records: “The face of this clock was given and the clock itself also restored by Sir Richard G. Glyn Bart. J. P. to commemorate the coronation of his Majesty King George V  June 22nd 1911”.

St Andrew's church clock face memorial plaque

St Andrew’s church clock face memorial plaque

Further, there is a record that Mrs Kerley Short made a gift of “a gilt clock face in 1913, at a cost of £25”.

The clock hands are operated by a 9 foot vertical shaft to a gear box beneath No.5 bell.  From this another shaft drives the clock hands through the 27 inch thickness of the Tower walls.


The Carillon

One source says that the carillon was made by John C Brine in 1748 or 1750, at a cost of £4 10s.2½d. and that it was auto wound from 1892.
However, William Monk Turret Clocks says: “The iron carillon that is operated by the clock was also made by Monk, at a cost of £2 18s. 0d., but in 1737, five years after the clock.  Now also electrically wound, the drum rotates at three hourly intervals, controlled by the clock.  The original wooden winding barrel remains but it is possible that the iron carillon barrel is a replacement.  The metal drum is unusual, more often they were made of wood at this time, but the larger diameter may well also indicate that the original was made of iron too”.

St Andrew's church carillon mechanism

St Andrew’s church carillon mechanism

At every third hour, the carillon plays six of the seven notes of the hymn tune ‘Hanover’ to which ‘O Worship the King’ is usually sung.  Only six notes are possible, as there are only six bells.  The carillon is reputed to be able also to play the National Anthem, but no way of making the adjustment has yet been found.
The church was rebuilt between 1862 and 1863 and the tower heightened to add an extra floor.  The bells were moved up to the new level and at the same time increased from four to six.  It is possible that, before this time, the carillon sounded the ‘Westminster Chimes’ at the quarters and that, after the installation of the 5th and 6th bells,  the carillon was adjusted to play the hymn tune.
On 7 June 1982, the carillon was converted to electric winding by Philip Pickford.

Maintenance of the Clock and Carillon

From 1762 to 1786, the clock and carillon were maintained by Joseph Vincent, a local clock maker.  From around 1796, it appears that the clock was not working.  From 1830, John Brine started to maintain it and he seems to have looked after it until 1898.
Dorset Church and Public Clocks records: “1860.  Paid £18 to Mister John Brine of Iwerne Minster for making and re-installing a variable chiming machinery to play music on the bells every third hour work”.

Dorset Church and Public Clocks also records:
“To the churchwardens of Fontmell Magna Church, 2 Salisbury Street, Shaftesbury, January 6th 1900.
Estimate for repairing and putting new parts to the Church clock & chimes at Fontmell Magna.
Wanted new pulleys and wire ropes for weights, new hammer, cranks and springs to hammers.  New pull off for chime hammers to lead to the belfry so that the hammers shall be free of the bells when ringing, new bosses to chime movement and rearrange also cranks rearranged for direct pull and leverage to bells.  New pallets and scape pinion to time movement of clock – new fan to striking new bosses throughout and the pivots returned and fitted throughout.  The whole left sound and kept wound and in repair for one year at a total sum of £5.  After the first year would undertake entire charge of the clock and chimes and wind and keep in repair at a yearly charge of 40s.

I am, Gentlemen, Yours Obediently, G. Hillier.”

From 1899, Henry Shute was tower keeper and the duties were taken over by his son Bert.  Bert was followed by Percy Chick, who died in 1978.  The duty of the tower keeper was to wind the clock and carillon.
In 1972, The Council for the Care of Churches wrote: “One of our advisors who is engaged in compiling a much-needed list of exceptionally well-made or historically important clocks has brought to our notice the very fine quality of the clock in your church”.  Attached to their letter is a note: “A most interesting – though altered – Wm. Monk clock and a very strange carillon machine”.
In the Parish Magazine Fontmell Magna News of May 1984, it was recorded: “How nice to both see and hear our Church clock and carillon working once more.  Very many thanks to Phil Pickford for taking on the job”.
And in March 1985, it recorded:  “How nice to see the refurbished face of our Church clock and to see and hear it keeping Fontmell time once more!  It is interesting to learn that, when scraping off the old paint, the original Roman numerals were laid bare and it was thus possible to use them as templates when applying gold leaf to the figures.  We are most grateful to Phil Pickford for arranging and supervising the work which was carried out by John Pickett of Berwick St John”.
In the Parish Magazine The Quartet of June 1988, it was reported that Mr. John Vasey of D’Vesci Turret Clock Services (of Romney Marsh, Kent) was servicing the Church Clock, including the chiming apparatus and the carillon.  “The outcome of Mr. Vasey’s work will, it is hoped, be a restoration of all Services chiming, striking of the hours and the sounding of the carillon.  Hopefully, then, the following poem (author unknown) – will no longer ring true!”


Should ee ever visit Vontmel
An’ eär the wold clock chime
Then don’ ee take no notice
Should ee want t’ know the time

At twelve an’ dree an’ zix an’ nine
A ‘ymn we once enjoyed
But now d’ come s’regular
D git zome volks annoyed

Ver ‘e d’ run on ‘ares lags
Aperched up in thik tower
Strike up ‘e do zoo loud an’ clear
Zome time avore the ‘our

A vew brave zouls ‘ave ‘ad a go
At zein to ‘is works
But zoon’s ther backs is turned ageän
‘Es off in vits an’ jerks

Wi’ vive an’ twenty ‘ours
Rung out t’ we each day
We zelebrate midsummer
Avore the end o’ May

Tiz  a pretty little parish tho
Wi’ a ‘istory o’ the past
But ‘t aint a place ver ollerdays
Cos time d’ goo zo vast

D’Vesci regularly serviced the clock and carillon between 1988 and 1993.  Jim Abbott then looked after the clock and, after he died in 1996, John Smalley took over the responsibility.
During the restoration of the tower roof, bells and stained glass windows in 2004, the carillon had to be temporarily dismantled.
In 2012, after the clock became increasingly erratic, it was removed by Cumbria Clock Company for a thorough overhaul.  The carillon was also serviced.  For several months the church tower was silent (except when the bells were rung) until the clock and carillon were reinstalled in June 2013.  At the same time, new stainless steel pull wires were fitted and all bell cranks and hammers were serviced.  Thankfully, the clock now keeps excellent time and “ollerdays” pass as they should once more. 

About William Monk

William Monk was an early rural clockmaker working at Berwick St. John in Wiltshire.  The records sometimes describe him as a blacksmith, sometimes a clockmaker, and in his will made in 1753 he himself referred to his pursuit of both trades – “unto my nephew, William Monk, all my working tools as blacksmith and clockmaker”.
William Monk was baptised in 1689 in the village church of Berwick St. John and worked there all his life.  However, occasionally he is referred to as “of Donhead” a neighbouring village two or three miles away.  He could have lived part way between the two.  The road between the two villages is crossed by the main road (now the A30) from Salisbury to Shaftesbury, and blacksmiths traditionally sited themselves on a main coaching road to pick up passing trade.
He was apprenticed in about 1703 at the customary age of fourteen, probably for the usual term of seven years, which would have ended in 1710.  By 1718, William Monk was well established in his own business; in that year he took his first apprentice of a total of eight that are known about.  These were: William Morgan from Handley, Dorset (1718); William Godwin from Handley, Dorset (1718); Roger Best from Tollard, Wiltshire (1724); John Flewell (1730); Thomas Hunt (1730); John Hewell (1743); Richard Reynolds (1745); William Goodfellow (1753).  Thomas Hunt and William Goodfellow were bound as blacksmiths, the rest as clockmakers.
In February 1721, William was married to Deborah James, but she died just two months later, in April.  In November 1725, he was married for the second time, at Wimborne St. Giles, to Deborah Ainsworth.  In 1727, she bore his only child to survive infancy, a daughter named Hannah.  Deborah died in 1732, leaving William a widower for the second time within eleven years but this time with a five-year-old daughter to raise.
In 1735, he was married for the third time, at Iwerne Minster, to Ann Adams.  She gave birth to a son, William, but he survived barely a year.  William himself lived on till 27 August 1753, when he died aged 64.  He was buried in a place of honour, outside the main door of the church at Berwick St John.  With no male heir to continue the business, it ended with his death.  Ann died aged 75 and was buried in the Monk tomb in February 1765.
Monk’s output was prolific, and no other maker has a comparable number of clocks remaining.  His most numerous clocks are thirty-hour brass dial examples, both one-handers and two-handers, but there are also a number of eight-day longcase (Grandfather) clocks and four lantern clocks (one of which sold at auction for £6,000 in 2005 at Bonhams, New Bond Street).
His clocks are signed in many different ways, including: ‘William Monk Fecit’, ‘William Monk’, ‘Wm. Monk Fecit’, ‘Wm. Monke fecit’, ‘Wm. Monk Barwick’, ‘Wm. Monk Barwick St. John’, ‘Wm. Monk Barrick St. John’, ‘W. Monk Barwick St. John’, ‘Wm. Monk Barwick St. Johns’.
It is possible that William Monk could not write.  This was the case with many clockmakers, who could measure and perform calculations for clock gearing, but could not write.  His will is signed with his mark, though that may be no more than an indication of infirmity.  If he was unable to read and write that would explain why he (or the various engravers who worked for him over the years) lapsed into such varied spellings, especially of Berwick.

William Monk’s Turret Clocks

William Monk made a number of turret clocks, mainly for local churches.  His turret clocks were of three types:

  • Two train clocks – All Saints, Broadchalke (date unknown), Stour Provost (date unknown, and removed in 1950 – now on display in the nave), St Andrew’s, Fontmell Magna (1732) and Tarrant Gunville (1735, but replaced by a new clock by Thwaites and Read in 1916).
  • Three train clocks – Sherborne Abbey (1739), Wimborne Minster (1742) and St Mary’s, Gillingham (circa 1720, but replaced by a new clock in 1914).
  • Converted clocks – Berwick St John (1731) and Witchampton (1737).

 A turret clock can have one, two or three trains of gears.  The first train of gears is called the going train and this drives the hands to tell the time.  The second is the striking train that strikes the hour and the third is the chiming train that sounds the quarter hours.  Each train is driven by a weight on the end of a steel line which is wound up round a wooden or metal barrel.
The St Andrew’s Church Clock is a two train clock, so it strikes the hour, but has no chiming train to sound the quarter hours.
Further afield, William Monk was also responsible for the “One Hand Clock” on the eastern face of the tower of St Nicholas’ Church at North Stoneham, Hampshire.  As the name suggests, the clock has only one hand, pointing to the hour.  At the time the clock was installed, it was said that “time was counted in hours, not minutes”. 

Dorset Church and Public Clocks by Tom Tribe.
William Monk Turret Clocks by Michael Snell – Antiquarian Horology (December 1985).
Dorset Clocks & Clockmakers by Tom Tribe & Philip Whatmoor (1981).
Clocks & Clockmakers of Salisbury by Michael Snell (1986).
William Monk – an early rural clockmaker by Brian Loomes – first published in Antique Collecting (April 2006).
The Turret Clock Keeper’s Handbook – The Antiquarian Horological Society.

Author: Chris Bellers