Saturday, 20 July 2024

The Clock and Cupola at Fairfield

In the past few years, the clock at Fairfield has stopped working and the fingers on its four faces stuck at 12 o'clock. It was decided at the congregation council in 2023 to repair this iconic part of the Settlement.

In the archives it is noted that in May 1786 some final touches were needed. On May 21, at a Lovefeast, subscriptions were sought for clock and bell, and various articles of furniture, to the amount of £168. So began the story of the clock.

The tradition and practice of Herrnhut are seen to be in operation at Fairfield when, for the first Sunday in May, 'This being the Festival of our dear Single Sisters they were, as is usual, awakened between 5 and 6 o'clock by our Musicians'. This greeting of the Single Sisters' Festival with music would have meant that the players on brass instruments would have gone up into the cupola to play. Brass instruments were also played on Easter Sunday morning to welcome the risen Lord.

There was some peril in having a clock in the Cupola over the roof of the church. In May 1818 the 'weight of the clock, 176 lbs, having fallen this week and injured the ceiling of the vestry. It was observed that it would be preferable to hang it in such a manner so that it may come down by the Bell Rope, and in case of it falling, be made to drop on the ground under the floor, and thus prevent in future, occurrences of a similar kind'. This was not the only time the weights fell through the ceiling: in the 1930s it happened again and damaged two pews in the middle section of the church. Fortunately, it was when the church was empty.

clock 2+
The original clock mechanism was replaced in 1955. An old handwritten note found in the back of the clock service card tells us the mechanism now in place (pictured left) was made by William Groves of Leeds c1830-1840. William had a clock repair and manufacturing business in Kirkgate Leeds. An almost identical clock to the one at Fairfield exists at Birkenshaw Church near Bradford. Further work was carried out on the clock face in the 1960s (see picture below).

clock 4+

Originally the clock only needed winding up once a week, but after the alterations to the church interior in 1908 the length of the drop of the weights was reduced and it needed winding twice a week. The bell has always struck the time on the hour but at one time it also struck on the half hour. Br Torkington remembers being in trouble for not going home for lunch, whilst playing out on time, as he mistook the half past one strike for the one o'clock!

clock 7+

The repair of the clock in 2024 will include the automatic winding on the clock. At present there are three flights of stairs, one section extremely narrow up to where it needs winding, and also a device that will automatically regulate the time with out going into the roof space. In the past the clock was subject to going slower or faster depending on the weather. Automatic ringing of the bell will soon be able to be done from downstairs as well. The total cost of the refurbishment will be £33,000.

Sr Janet Warr


Archive quotes taken from Br Mellowes book 'A Short History of Fairfield Moravian Church'

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
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