Clock was a timely gift for a golden occasion
THE YEAR of Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, 1887, was also a golden anniversary for James Ramsbotham, the wealthy owner of the Crowborough Warren estate, and his wife – and they marked the joyful occasion by presenting a tower clock and bells to All Saints Church as their thanksgiving for 50 years of happily married life.
The ecclesiastical parish of Crowborough had been formed only a few years earlier.
Until then All Saints was a chapel of ease to the mother church of St Denys, Rotherfield. It also served the Sir Henry Fermor School.
It was a modest building consisting of a nave and tower when the first vicar, the Rev Henry Gresson, arrived.
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The energetic Mr Gresson soon had alterations and additions under way, and by 1887 All Saints was a church worthy of Crowborough's increasing population.
Mr Gresson, soon to leave to become Rector of Otley in Suffolk, was not to know that within a few years the church would be further enlarged under his successor, the Rev Samuel Akroyd.
So in Jubilee year Mr Gresson began to consider ways of commemorating the Queen's 50 years on the throne.
He decided that a tower clock would be appropriate, and it would also set the seal on All Saints' achievement of parish church status.
Friends and parishioners supported him heartily, and he set out to canvass opinions about a public subscription.
One of the first people he approached was Mr Ramsbotham, who immediately offered to pay for the clock and the bells for the quarter chimes.
The vicar had to look no further. An order was placed with J Smith and Sons, of Midland Steam Works, Derby, and by April the clock and bells were installed in the tower of All Saints Church.
Just before noon on the day of Mr and Mrs Ramsbotham's golden wedding Mrs Gresson started the pendulum.
At noon the hour was sounded for the first time, and at 12.15pm the quarter chimes were heard.
It was a case of Hamlet without the Prince.
Mr and Mrs Ramsbotham could not be present because they were entertaining family and friends at their home in the Warren.
Next day they held open house for the village tradesmen and old people.
Over at Mayfield people were thinking along the same lines.
A committee which had been appointed to consider ways of celebrating the Queen's jubilee voted in favour of providing a tower clock for St Dunstan's Church.
At the same time the old chimes, which had been disused for nearly 80 years, were to be put in order.
J Smith and Sons must have been rubbing their hands with glee. They got that order as well.
The inauguration of the clock was a public event, attended by a Kent and Sussex Courier correspondent who duly reported the occasion: "The large clock with Cambridge chimes purchased by subscription to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, having been completed and safely fixed in the church tower, was set going a few minutes before 8pm on Friday, December 2, in the presence of the committee and a large gathering of parishioners, amongst whom were several ladies.
"The clock is placed high up in the tower, which is of early English architecture, the only approach to it being the much-worn spiral staircase at one of the angles of the tower.
"The parishioners who were not deterred by the difficulty of the ascent began to assemble in the spacious room in which the clock is fixed at 7.40 and were much interested in inspecting the clock and its complicated works, which were open to view, the clock case having a glass front and back.
"The hands on the outside dial had been set to indicate five minutes to eight, and when the time drew nigh the vicar offered up a short prayer and then proceeded at the proper moment to put the pendulum into action.
"The company having listened to the sweet melody of the quarters and the striking of the clock, then descended with some difficulty the spiral staircase, and having arrived at the bottom, sang the national anthem before leaving the belfry. The clock is similar to the great clock at Westminster, and a first-rate timekeeper".