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The Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary Church Clock in St Michael & All Angels Church tower, Houghton-le-Spring

In this age of digital devices, we often take for granted how easy it is to find out the time; we don't need to wear a wristwatch, we simply glance at our mobile phone or i-pod, but during the Victorian era, time keeping while out and about wasn't so easy. In 1884 the people of Houghton agreed that an illuminated clock would be beneficial and the best place to erect it would be in the tower of St Michael & All Angels Church. This would not be the first clock in the Church, however, as a metal engraving from 1784 features a clock above the door on the west wall of the church. Records also show that a Ralph Porter was responsible for maintaining a Church clock between 1559 and 1605, while in 1662 a John Hope was responsible for repairing and maintaining the clock. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

The Bernard Gilpin memorial clock in Houghton Parish Church

The face and hands of the Church clock in 2008. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1884 - January 16th - a public meeting, later referred to as the Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary Public Meeting, was held in St Michael's Church Hall in the Rectory grounds. Seven resolutions were proposed and carried which saw the forming of a committee and the opening of a bank account for the raising of funds to install an illuminated clock in the Church tower, to make repairs to the Church fabric, and for the erection of a proper means of access to the Belfry.

1884 - March 4th - A sub-committee for the Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary was formed. Various meetings took place that month and it was agreed unanimously that:
"if the Funds admit of it, a new Clock, with one or more dials, illuminated and raised, if possible, be obtained."

1884 - April 3rd - The Rector presided over a meeting where it was agreed to accept the estimate of Messrs Reid & Sons for a new illuminated turret clock at the cost of £115, with Cambridge chimes, £160, provided sufficient funds were raised. Early subscriptions paid into the account were from the Earl of Durham (£5), Rector John Grey (£5) and J. Gilpin Brown Esq (£2 10s).

1884 - May 1st - The Bishop of Durham preached at St Michael's Church on the occasion of the Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary Commemoration. Gilpin's tomb in the south transept was decorated with a cross and wreath of flowers. In the evening, Rev C.S Collingwood, who had recently written a book about Gilpin, gave a lecture in St Michael's Church Hall. It was reported in the April 1884 Church Magazine:
"We are sorry that the Lecture, which was most interesting and exceedingly well delivered, had not a larger audience."

1884 - May 4th - The Commemorations continued on the Sunday with a sermon by the Rector at the morning service. Rev George Body, Canon of Durham, preached in the evening. The collections raised £7 for the Memorial Fund.

1884 - June - The illuminated clock fund stood at £130 11s 11d and the Church improvement fund stood at £58 6s 5d. The largest donation in the clock fund had come from Sir George Elliot (£10 = £483.10, todayís value). Funds were used that month to panel the walls and ceiling of the organ chamber in the hope it would prevent the damp from 'injuring the organ'.

1884 - August 18th - At a Committee meeting it was agreed that no steps should be taken to install the clock until the full amount had been raised. Funds were at £140, with £30 or £35 still needed. Appeals were placed in the Church magazine where it was said:
"As the dark evenings are rapidly coming on, an Illuminated Clock would be a great boon to the town and district, and every effort should be made now to raise the comparatively small amount that is wanted."

1884 - September 1st - A Committee meeting was held in the Rectory. It was proposed by Mr Joseph Stokoe and seconded by Dr Lyon that:
"The Rector and Churchwardens...settle the terms of an agreement with the Local Board, with reference to the erection of the proposed new Illuminated Clock in the Church Tower, and the future maintenance and lighting of the said Clock."
and that an application be made to the Local Board to contribute to the cost of the clock's installation.

The Bernard Gilpin memorial clock in Houghton Parish Church

The dials and workings of the Church clock in 2004, as viewed from within the Church tower. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1884 - October 13th - A report was presented at a Committee meeting in St Michael's Church Hall and stated that: the new clock would be handed over to the Local Board and would become their property; the Rector and Churchwardens consented to the clock being placed in the Church tower, with the costs (and Faculty cost) borne by the Local Board; the Local Board would have access to the clock at all times and would keep it going and in good order; the Local Board was to pay the Rector and Churchwardens one shilling a year so long as the clock remains in the tower, and that should three months' notice be given, the clock be removed and the clock chamber and tower be restored.

1884 - October 20th - An agreement was made between the Rector, Churchwardens and Local Board for the future maintenance of the clock.

1884 - December 13th - A Faculty (Diocese permission) was granted for the erection of a clock in the Church tower. At the meeting in October, it was agreed that the Rector and Churchwardens be empowered to make arrangements for the purchase of the clock once the Faculty had been granted.

1884 - December 27th - Rector John Grey reported that the funds for the Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary came to £148 2s 5d for the clock, £41 1s for church improvements and £36 expended by the Churchwardens on cleaning and colouring the walls and roof, plus other works, taking the total to £290. Adjusting the amounts into modern equivalents using the National Archive's currency converter gives £14,000, of which the clock cost £7,155.72. The clock was installed into the Church tower in late December.

1885 - April - It was reported in the Church magazine:
"We are pleased to see that the Illuminated Clock has at last been completed to the satisfaction of the Committee. The chimes and striking apparatus seem to be now in good working order; an improved pendulum has been added, and the works...cased in."
A broader minute hand was expected to be installed at a later date and appeal went out for more donations to cover the unexpected expenses.

 

The Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary Church Clock in Houghton Parish Church: Names of those who donated money

Click for names and amounts of the donors to the Bernard Gilpin Memorial Clock Fund in Houghton Parish Church

For a full list of the names of those who donated to the Bernard Gilpin Tercentenary fund, click HERE. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

 

Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Paul Lanagan wishes to place on record his thanks to the following:

With thanks to Rev Ian Wallis for granting access to the Church tower during Houghton Feast 2004. The majority of the historical information is from the Church magazines of 1884 and 1885.
Value of the donations in modern equivalence was calculated using the National Archivesí Currency Converter for the years 1880 & 2005.
See: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency

 

 


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The Gilpin family crest as found on Bernard Gilpin's altar tomb

PAGE UPDATED: 14/01/2012

BERNARD GILPIN MEMORIAL FUND Name Illuminated Clock Fund Church Improvement Rev & Hon John Grey £5 0s 0d £15 0s 0d The Earl of Durham £5 0s 0d £5 0s 0d The Marquess of Londonderry £2 10s 0d £2 10s 0d Sir George Elliot Bart., MP £10 0s 0d £0 0s 0d Mrs Grey £0 0s 0d £10 0s 0d R.L Pemberton Esq £5 0s 0d £0 0s 0d J Gilpin Brown Esq £2 10s 0d £2 10s 0d Mrs Gilpin Brown £2 10s 0d £2 10s 0d Church collection May 1st £7 2s 2d £7 2s 2d Church collection May 4th £3 5s 9d £3 5s 9d Rev C.S Collingwood Lecture £1 12s 3d £1 12s 3d Rev A Bennett £3 3s 0d £0 0s 0d Messrs Wood & Co £3 3s 0d £0 0s 0d E. F Boyd Esq £1 1s 0d £1 1s 0d Dr Park £2 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Rev T. F Patterson £1 0s 0d £1 0s 0d Miss Farrer £0 0s 0d £1 1s 0d Mrs Clarke, Sunderland St £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Dr Lyon £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Joseph Stokoe £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr J Anderson, Chilton Moor £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Miss Franklin £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Miss Grey £0 0s 0d £0 10 0d Miss Tweddell £0 10s 0d £0 0s 0d Mrs Goodricke, Newbottle £0 5s 0d £0 5s 0d Mr J Brown, Lambton St £0 5s 0d £0 5s 0d Rev H. E Powell £0 2s 6d £0 2s 6d Rev E Richards £0 1s 3d £0 1s 3d Mr F Harrison, George St £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Mr John Hately £6 7s] Mr John Hately £2 2s 0d £2 2s 0d Mr G Howe £1 0s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr William Elstob £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr William Stokoe £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr & Mrs Tripp £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mrs Wheatley £0 1s 6d £0 0s 0d Mrs W Place £0 0s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr Rutherford £0 0s 6d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Mr T Carr £5 3s 6d] W Pallister & Co £2 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Miss Anderson £1 0s 0d £0 0s 0d Mrs Shanks £0 0s 0d £1 0s 0d Mrs Lishman £0 0s 0d £0 10s 6d Miss Pallister £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mrs Dobson £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d M.D £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Messrs Adams & Rontree £7 0s 0d] [Collected by Messrs M Stokoe & W.B Turnbull £25 13s 0d] [Collected by Mr T Todd £6 4s 6d] [Collected by Mr T Elstob, Market Place & New Town, £5 15s 6d] [Collected by Mr A Douthwaite £5 15s 6d] [Collected by Mr R.H Rowell £3 16s 6d] [Collected by Mr George Dobson £3 14s 6d] Mr G. H Dobson £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Miss Dobson £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Miss E Dobson £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr J Todd £0 10s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr G Barron £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr E. H Wilson £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr T. Kersey £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr W. A Robinson £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr E Todhunter £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d A Friend £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Mr J Boddy £3 5s 6d] Mr J Boddy £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Messrs Cook, Son & Co £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Messrs J. Clapperton & Co £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Messrs Anderson & Miller £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr Alf Cooke £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Mr G Lishman £1 4s] Mr G. Lishman £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr Sotheran £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr John Hall £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr Pringle Balmer £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr William Tate, Sunderland £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Thomas Jobson £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Miss Atkinson £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d [Collected by Mr William Bambrough 6s] Mrs Stanger, Sunderland St £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr W Bambrough, Mautland St £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr S Cartwright, Mautland St £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr W Edmenson, Mautland St £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr W Maddison, Mautland St £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Collected by Miss Horton £0 7s 6d £0 0s 0d TOTAL £130 11s 11d £58 6s 5d JULY 1884 Ill Clock Ch Improv Balance brought forward £130 11s 11d £58 6s 5d Mr D Balfour £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr J. J Hopper £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr B. Noble (North Eastern Bank) £1 1s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Thos. Smith, Sunderland Street £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr N. Temperley £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mrs Horton £0 10s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr Thos. Moody, Newbottle Row £0 10s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Denton £0 10s 0d £0 0s 0d Collected by Mr S Smyth £0 7s 6d £0 0s 0d Mr J. Leonard £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d E.J.N. £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Wm. Reid £0 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr John Burns £0 1s 0d £0 0s 0d TOTAL £137 6s 11d £58 6s 5d SEPT 1884 Ill Clock Ch Improv Balance brought forward £137 6s 11d £58 6s 5d H. T. Morton Esq £2 10s 0d £2 10s 0d D. Miller Esq £2 2s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr S. Henderson £0 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr Priddin £0 2s 6d £0 0s 0d TOTAL £142 7s 5d £60 16s 5d NOV 1884 Ill Clock Ch Improv Balance brought forward £142 7s 5d £60 16s 5d T.W. U. Robinson Esq £5 5s 0d £0 0s 0d Dr Sutherland £0 10s 0d £0 0s 0d Mr H. Harland £0 0s 0d £0 5s 0d TOTAL £148 2s 5d £61 1s 5d Value of the donations in modern equivalence was calculated using the National Archivesí Currency Converter for the years 1880 & 2005. See: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/