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There has been a clock on the tower of Witheridge Church for at least 170 years. A print of about 1830 shows a two tier tower with a wooden spire. In the east face of this tower is a clock. This original clock did not always give satisfaction, as is shown by this excerpt from the Tiverton Gazette of 15th August 1882:

"Possibly nothing except the weather was ever more abused than our church clock. Sometimes it has been too slow, and sometimes, but rarely, to fast, and sometimes, like grandfather's, it has stopped short for a week or two and then off again. We have long seen that something must be done, but where were the funds? That question has been answered by G Cutcliffe Esq. In a practical manner, he has generously offered a new clock with modern appliances to the parish, or as an equivalent £200 to buy one. It is scarcely necessary to add that there is no danger of the offer being refused."

On 3rd October 1882 The Gazette had more good news:

"There is about to be put in the tower of Witheridge Parish Church a new turret-clock, the gift of George Cutcliffe Esq, of Coombe; the order for its erection has been given to Messrs Ellis, Depree and Tucker of Exeter. It will be made with all the newest improvements and will strike on one of the Large bells, so that it will be heard for a long distance."

Then on 26th December 1882 The Gazette reported the successful opening of the new clock;

"It was a red letter day for this town on Wednesday last on the occasion of the opening of the new turret-clock. It is considered one of the best pieces of mechanism of its kind in the country. It was first set going on Wednesday afternoon a few minutes after four o'clock by Master Cutcliffe. The clock first chimed and then struck the hour. There were several parishioners present and the Rev P M Benson said that they were deeply indebted to Mr Cutcliffe for his munificent gift to his native parish. They all rejoiced at his coming and residing amongst them after an absence of some years. Mr Cutcliffe then thanked the Vicar and parishioners. The fine peal of church bells then struck out some delightful harmony. The clock has two dials of 6ft 4ins diameter with gilt hands and figures. These dials are fixed at the eastern and southern sides of the tower".

Although set in the church tower, the clock has been the responsibility of the Parish Council since that Council was first established in 1894. The clock had to be wound manually each week, which involved a long and steep climb and descent, but this poorly paid task has been faithfully carried out for many years. Amongst those who have been clock winders in the past are Joe Churchill, Comins Bowden, Clifford Bristow, and John Chapple.

The clock suffered the occasional misfortune. Indeed, one evening it came under fire. A few locals had been out hunting for rabbits for the day. They had had a good day and celebrated with plenty of cider on their return. It seems, however, that on being chucked out at closing time, they blamed the clock and on reaching The Square attempted to shoot the hands off it. Their aim was surprisingly good - the clock face still shows the shot marks - but the hands remained in place.

On another occasion the clock was ridiculed. It had been stopped for some time and the explanation given was that in certain weather conditions the tower leaned, causing the mechanism to stop. This reached the ears of the local press, whose photographer's sense of humour got the better of him; in taking the picture he leant his camera so far sideways that when the picture was printed the tower appeared to lean at an angle of 45 degrees.

By the end of the year 2000 the winding gear had come to the end of its useful life. Repairs would have cost approximately £2,500, so it was decided to replace it with an electric automatic system, which required the raising of some £5,000. An appeal was launched and the response was generous. Among the donors were the Viscount Amory Trust, the Allchurches Trust, local businesses, private donations, local fundraising, including a hymnathon, a coffee morning at the Firs, and sales of a copy of a water-colour of the Square that had been in Australia for about 90 years. The clock is now fully restored and working well.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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