Villagers in Badwell Ash have bid a temporary goodbye to their church clock but it is in expert hands.
A £23,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant means the clock in St Mary’s Church can be returned to working order, but that means removing the mechanism from the confines of the tower and the large clock face from the wall.
The operation was carried out by Ian Haward and his son Jack from Haward Horological in Felixstowe, who are one of the few companies who can work on such timepieces.
Using ropes attached to the bell frame, Jack was lowered in a bo’sun’s chair and the clock face was then sent to the ground with Ian’s guidance.
Their family have been clockmakers on public clocks for five generations, originally based in Clerkenwell, London.
Ian said: “It would be easier to say the ones we haven’t worked on. From Fortnum and Masons, which we still look after, to Big Ben.”
The family has worked on all the buildings in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons.
St Mary’s clock is thought to date from the 1700s and has not worked for some years and or chimed for many more.
Ian said it was unusual, not just because of its age.
“It’s a steel framed clock – what they call a birdcage steel clock – but the bottom frame is wood,” he said. “Usually they are either all steel or all wood.”
He hopes to have the clock face back in three to four weeks, followed by the mechanism three or four weeks later.
The face was probably originally copper, which Badwell Ash history group member Karl Hortt said was replaced with fibreglass for the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977. He added: “When you see the mechanism it looks very crude, like it was made by a blacksmith, but it kept very good time.”
He said for 30 years someone used to climb the narrow tower stairs to wind it every two days, but the restoration will include an electric winder for safety reasons.
Its chime will also have an electronic control to stop it chiming at night.