Timely boost for historic clock

church clock
church clock

A £35,700 project by the Friends of St Mary’s, Rye, to renovate one of the oldest church clocks in England has received a big boots from Rother Council.

The Friends want to install the mechanism for the parish church’s famous Tudor clock in a special case so that it can be seen by visitors.

Now Rother’s Cabinet have approved a £4,000 grant toward the project.

The clock is an iconic focal point for both locals and visitors in Rye, with carved quarter boys striking chimes at 15 minutes past and 45 minutes past the hour.

Rye member Cllr Sam Souster said the clock had been made in nearby Winchelsea in 1561 and has an 18ft long pendulum which swings within the church itself.

Fellow Rye member Cllr Lord Ampthill said climbing the church tower to pass the clock and belfry was an attraction for more than 10,000 visitors a year.

The architect-designed, museum-standard case in which the clock mechanism is to be housed and displayed is expected to greatly enhance such visits and help boost the town’s tourism industry .

Anthony Kimber, from the Friends of St Mary’s, said: “It is many years since any work was completed and recently faults have occurred.

“Photographed by countless visitors, the clock was fitted in the mid 16th century, probably by a Huguenot from Winchelsea.

“It is one of the oldest functioning church turret clocks in the country, perhaps coming secondhand to Rye, from a monastery elsewhere.

“With mechanical details similar to clocks in Wells and Salisbury it may date from as early as the 14 the century. The pendulum, which swings in the body of the Church and the painted clock-face adorned by ‘Quarter Boys’ were later additions in Georgian times.

“The original “boys” are inside in the Clare Chapel, having been replaced outside by more modern and robust copies.

“After a recent assessment co-ordinated by Friend John Gurney, a plan has been developed, which will be funded partly by the Friends and partly by the Church Council.

“Rye Town Council has supported the project. The mechanism has been removed to specialists in Cumbria for refurbishment and will return in about two months.

“As fundraising continues, further donations will be very welcome.”