Village Clock restoration

At shortly after 4pm on Friday 10th March Richard Harrison, chairman of Coates Parish Council, in front of around 80 villagers and a TV production crew led a countdown to the unveiling of the newly restored village clock. The unveiling was accompanied by a hearty round of applause expressing thanks for the return of the clock and to those people in the village, along with the TV and restoration team, who had made this possible. The unveiling was followed by a tea and cake party in the village hall, with grateful thanks to the organisers and to the ‘bakers of Coates’.

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Coates clock has been a landmark in the village for over a century. Though few people today need to rely on a public clock to keep to their busy schedules, for much of its life our clock would have played an important role in village life. Today it is cherished as a symbol of a bygone age and is protected by the Grade II conservation listing of the building to which is fixed.

Since passing its 100th birthday, old age has sadly taken its toll. In the last few years no amount of coaxing by those who knew it well could keep it running for long and its future was seriously in doubt. However by remarkable good fortune, its future has now been secured.

The clock was acquired by the Parish in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V.  It appears that an interest in royal events was encouraged in the village children, who were given a half holiday in 1909 to see King Edward pass by on his way to Gloucester. The coronation of his successor two years later was marked by a whole week’s holiday at the King’s request and each child received a commemorative mug as a gift. The clock was positioned centrally in the village on the front of the National School, where it doubtless helped generations of children who passed beneath it to learn their Roman numerals and to tell the time. Records show that the Parish paid the school a peppercorn rent for the privilege and retained ownership of the clock when the school closed and passed into private hands in 1987.

As displayed on the two faces, the clock was supplied by Stradlings of Cirencester, a jewellers in the town’s Market Place that itself closed in the late 1980s.  the internal clockwork mechanism, which older members of the village will remember had to be regularly wound, was replaced by a battery operated quartz movement around 1990.

As far as is known, the cylindrical metal casing remained largely unchanged apart from periodic repainting, but exposure to wind, rain, sun and frost inevitably led to rust and decay. By 2016, with the clock stopped on both its independent faces, it was clear to all that blacksmithing skills as well as expertise in clock restoration would be needed if it was to be saved.

The Parish Council resolved to undertake the necessary repairs to preserve the structure and get the clock working again. Unfortunately, it is no longer easy to find restorers able and willing to repair historic clocks and prices quoted were far beyond the means of a small rural parish council with many calls on its funds. The days of a sound and functional Coates clock appeared numbered with no obvious solution until, quite serendipitously, a knight in shining armour appeared riding over the horizon.

In January 2017, the Parish Council received a circular about the making of a brand new series for BBC2, provisionally named ‘The Repair Shop’. A team of master craftsmen and women had been assembled to create the ultimate workshop specifically to rescue and restore people’s beloved broken objects and bring these treasured possessions back to life. It seemed that the concept must have been designed specifically with us in mind and the Parish Council immediately responded with details of the Coates clock.  Within days the production company had visited Coates to confirm the suitability of the project, the clock had been removed from its frame (no easy task) and it was soon on its way to Chichester for restoration.

We welcomed the clock’s return with a party in the village hall to express our thanks to the restoration team and to those in the village who worked to bring this project to fruition. The village can now look forward to its historic clock telling the time for Coates for many years to come.

(with thanks to Diana and Andrew Crane for this article)