As a church we have both a spiritual responsbility to our community and a practical responsibility to look after the listed buildings we use.
Time stood still on Friday 18th March 2011 when it was noticed that the bells had struck 9 o’clock but the hands on the south facing clock of St Mary's tower were showing 6.30am!
Chris Wadge and Churchwarden Carole Wyatt went to the tower to investigate and saw the Minute Hand hanging free at the half hour position. By juggling the clock movement the minute hand fell (excalibur fashion!) into the ground below the tower! By Monday 21st March a quote had been received from the Cumbria Clock Co to manufacture and replace the rod for £690.00 plus VAT. The clock had been overhauled the year before, but as this didn't include the clock face it wasn't covered by the guarantee. If we could get the broken rod and minute hand to them it would save a visit and lessen the charge.
John Cullingford was approached for the use of his long ladder inside the tower to disconnect the hand motion work and remove the minute hand drive rod so that we could send it to Cumbria Clocks. John, with the technical expertise of Chris below the ladder with his drawings, helped remove the remains of minute arbor using a trusted wood mallet. Then the hour hand and its tube was removed; with brave Carole on the church battlements slowly feeding a rope eye down around the hour hand and Chris in the churchyard holding the other end of the rope whilst the hand was slowly pulled out of the center of the clock face and lowered to the ground.
Our local Blacksmith, Richard Jesse, was approached by Carole to see what he made of the rusty bits of the minute rod and he suggested that he could repair the old one to keep down the cost, but if we could get a rod of ½ inch Stainless Steel it wouldn’t happen again. A trip to the Metal Supermarket in Southampton by Chris secured us a 2 meter length of stainless steel rod suitable for the task. The blacksmith cut a thread on the end of the rod to take the Hand nut and then milled a square to match the hole in the hand and apart from the length, it was ready for use.
So we now had the hour hand pipe and the minute hand rod ready to be put back in the clock face and their respective hands ready to be secured back on. John Cullingford reinserted the hour pipe and minute rod and we were all ready to have the hands refitted. All we needed now was an abseiler! Enter Peter from the Choir and a member of the International Knot Tyers association who knew someone called Richard from Bristol who was prepared to don his harness and lower himself down to the clock face and reattach the hands. A Date was fixed and on Monday 11th April 2011 at about 10am, before a small band of followers, Richard did his thing and the clock was restarted. Many thanks to everyone who made it happen.
In 2008 we embarked on a challenging programme of improvements and alterations to St Mary’s and maintance on St Andrew’s chapel. This included;
The leaflet we produced featured a picture of the hand painted board, framed at the back of the church, which shows what the village achieved in 1830 (click the image to to see the full board). In today's money it cost them over £45,000. It was done before, we just had to do the same; raise about £50,000. We called it the 50k Challenge. You can read the leaflet here.>
Before we could install the toilet into the tower of the church we had to do something about the weights from the clock which drop down all the way to the floor!
The solution was to fit an auto-winder which meant that the weights would get wound back up by an electric motor after a set distance. Our thanks go to Chris Wadge and Steve from the Post Office for all their hard work towards making this project successful. The auto-winder was installed in September with the work on protecting the bells completed in October. They now strike the hour once more.
Fitting the auto-winder has also helped us reduce our health and safety risks by requiring much fewer trips up the tower - mostly to change the hour at the start and end of British Summer Time.
Phase 1 of the building project began in early February 2010. The inside of the tower was modified with the installation of a toilet and improved storage facilities. The church had no sewerage so a trench was dug around the back of the church to link with the existing drainage at the Vicarage.
To ensure full disabled access to the new toilet, the floor of the tower had to be lowered. A smart glass screen was fitted to close the tower off, whilst allowing light to flood in from the window at the back .
The font, which was in the tower, was removed to under go restoration. Eventually it would return to sit in the new welcome area at the back of the church, in front of the tower, once the new limestone floor had been laid.
After a few teething problems getting the Purbeck stone floor laid, the result was a much more open space at the back of the church that would benefit how we use the church and was well used during Sixpenny Handley’s Spring Fayre on 29th March 2009. The font was placed into its new position in the June of 2009.
The sound and audio system took a lot longer to get right than anticipated, but eventually came into full use during 2010, with the large back projection screen finally removing the fun of trying to prop up a small domestic projector screen in the pulpit and balance a projector stand in the second pew! Whilst almost all the goals for the project were met, we failed to get progress on the heating system which remains on our to do list.