The Village Clock
Stoke parishioners had been discussing the possibility of placing a clock in the church since at least the middle of the 18th Century. The following is an excerpt from the parish records: "At a vestry meeting held the 29 Day of April 1743 concerning the erecting of a new Clock in the Parish Church of Gregory Stoke and we whose hands are hereunder written is not for having any clock erected there as witness our hands." This statement was followed by a long list of names. They had to wait for their clock until the Queen's Jubilee in 1897.
The Clock Face in 2010
The Clock Face Was Repainted in 2013
The decision was taken to raise local subscriptions to install a clock as a celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. It was a time when town halls, stately homes, factories, office blocks and churches were all having clock dials added to their structures. The following entry is from the Somerset County Gazette, 3rd July 1897: “The clock is estimated to cost about £145, and will naturally be of great benefit to the villagers. The chimes are special in character, having been written by Dr Martin, organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, at the invitation of the Clock Committee. The clock is erected from the design of Lord Grimthorpe, with all the latest improvements, and it strikes the quarters in the usual way. The pendulum bob weighs two hundredweight, and is so compensated that the weather will have no effect on it. It also has a Lord Grimthorpe double three legged gravity escapement, and shows the time by a five feet skeleton dial. The hands are of strong copper and the bushes of gun metal, while the arbors are of steel, hardened and polished to perfection. The frame is on the horizontal principle, and the clock, which is fixed on iron brackets bolted to the wall, is guaranteed by Messrs. W. Potts and Sons of Leeds, by whom the work has been efficiently carried out, to go to a minute a year.”
The catalogue produced by the makers offerred several chimes that could be incorporated in this type of clock. "It can be constructed to chime the Ding Dong or Cambridge, Nafferton, Tennyson, Stoke, St Gregory, Wesleys Recite, "Lead me Lord" and Dr Scotts "Hallelujah Chimes". (The Cambridge Chimes were later adapted to form the Westminster Chimes that precede the striking of Big Ben).
The chimes were commissioned by the Stoke St Gregory village clock committee and were composed by Dr (later Sir) George Clement Martin, who took over from Sir John Stainer when he resigned as organist at St Paul’s in February 1888. Michael Potts, a descendent of the Potts family who has written a book about the history of the company, has confirmed that the Stoke St Gregory chimes were advertised in a Potts catalogue, post 1897, and that only Stoke St Gregory, Bampton Cumbria and Walkern Hertfordshire, churches have this chime.
So, in June 1897, the Annual Club Day celebrations were to be enhanced by the starting of the new clock, with the grand Lady of the Manor of North Curry 'cutting the ribbon'. But this was still Stoke, and it didn't quite happen to plan. The Somerset County Gazette reported on the day: "In addition to the usual programme it was decided to erect a clock in the church tower as a permanent memorial of the Jubilee, and it had been hoped that it would be dedicated and started on Tuesday, Mrs Barrett, of Moredon, having with her usual kindness consented to come and perform the latter ceremony. A part of the works, however, failed to arrive until Tuesday, and this portion of the programme was thus unavoidably postponed."
Despite the setback of not being able to start the clock, it seems everyone had a good time. The Gazette reporter sounded quite surprised how the different village factions got on so well together: "Perhaps never before has the usually quiet village of Stoke St Gregory presented such a gay appearance or such a scene of activity as it did on "Tuesday", when with the annual fête in connection with the friendly society were combined the Diamond Jubilee rejoicings, and the success of the venture in combining the two events was of the most marked character. The appearance of the village was of quite a holiday character with its tasteful decorations, while the day was observed as a general holiday, and seldom indeed have the inhabitants entered into an event with such a zest as on the present occasion. A remarkable feature in connection with the day's proceedings was that all shades and denominations had been specially united without the least friction in the determination to make the day a red letter one in the annals of the parish, and the complete success of the whole arrangements reflects the highest credit upon those who had associated themselves with them." Full Article available HERE
The part duly arrived and our clock was started. It was not until two years later, however, that the final bill was paid to Potts of Leeds: "CLOCK COMMITTEE - The Church Clock Committee met in the National School-room on Monday, and it was decided to send Messrs Potts a cheque for the amount due to them. It is gratifying to know that with the additional subscriptions handed in at the meeting by the Rev H F S Gurney, a sufficient amount has been subscribed for the purpose. Taunton Courier 11th October 1899."