Friends start fight to save historic clock

THERE are fears the historic clock at St Mary’s Church could fall silent after striking the hours in Rye for more than 500 years.

The Friends of the Church are concerned the ageing mechanism could sound the death knell for the clock and are hoping to raise £20,000 to help it measure out the time for the next 500 years.

They have already won the support of Rye Town Council who have pledged to donate £3,000 to the appeal. Now there are plans to seek further funding from Rother Council, the National Lottery and the Church of England as well as appealing for donations from visitors to the church.

St Mary’s has the oldest working turret clock in England and is seen in the same league as Wells and Salisbury.

Chairman of the Friends of St Mary’s Terry Burke said: “The clock is an important part of the town’s heritage but sadly the mechanism is proving unreliable and unless professionally serviced will cease to function.”

Part of the plan is to mount the mechanism in an architect designed, museum standard, display case which will be dedicated to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year.

The original medieval clock mechanism was installed in 1513 by a local craftsman from Winchelsea.

In 1561 Rye invested in a new clock which was made by a London Huguenot craftsman Lewys Billiard, who was paid the princely sum of £30 for his work. The clock has seen the visit of Queen Elizabeth 1 to the town in 1773, the Spanish Armada and two world wars.

The famous Rye Quarter Boys, which flank the clock face, were added in 1761.

Cllr Jo Kirkham said: “This is the town clock and something worthy of support.”

Cllr Bernardine Fiddimore said: “There are certain things in Rye which make the town what it is and the church tower and clock are at the very top of the list.”

Cllr Lord Ampthill said: “This clock is 500 years old and is almost unique. If we commit it will help them to get more funding. If we can kick this thing into play it would be very helpful.”