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  • Writer's pictureFriends of St Mary's

Restoring Time: The Tower Clock Restoration Project

The north tower


Greetings, dear friends! Let us embark on an enthralling journey through time as we delve into the St Mary's Tower Clock Restoration project. This undertaking is a blend of historical reverence and modern craftsmanship aimed at reviving a piece of history that stood the test of time. Join us in exploring the significance of this clock, created by the renowned Leonard Tennant, and discover how your support can contribute to this noble cause.

The Historic Significance

Nestled in the heart of Chilham, the St Mary's Tower Clock is a remarkable testament to the craftsmanship of Leonard Tennant, a prominent figure in the early 1600s clockmaking world. A member of the Joiners’ Company, Tennant's work extended from 1606 to 1641, training a lineage of apprentices. His legacy includes an iron turret clock with unique verge escapement and cockle-shell punch-marks, currently on display at the British Museum, and exemplifying his craftsmanship between 1600-1620. The St Mary's Tower Clock, one of the few remaining pieces of Tennant's work, holds a special place in both local and national heritage.

The Restoration Process

The cumbria Clock

The esteemed task of restoring the St Mary's Tower Clock has been entrusted to the Cumbria Clock Company, known for its profound knowledge and exceptional experience in clock restoration. The CCC are responsible for the maintenance of the country’s oldest clock in Salisbury Cathedral. They have undertaken the repairs and automatic winding of the most important astronomical clock at Hampton Court Palace, as well as major restorations at Leeds Town Hall, the large clock at Manchester Town Hall, Manchester, Durham, Hereford and Worcester cathedrals. They also worked on the clock in Big Ben, so we are in good company! Beginning their meticulous work on the 1st of November. They have carefully removed the old casing and clock mechanism. This step marks the commencement of a comprehensive restoration, ensuring that every component of this historic timepiece is revived with utmost care and precision. The clock face will be removed at a later date and will certainly be something to see! We are considering abseiling the tower to lower it to the ground, but that will depend on the crew attending.  We will let you know when this is due to take place. CCC's dedication and expertise promise to restore the clock to its original splendour, honouring Leonard Tennant’s legacy.

The Funding Challenge

Restoring such a significant historical artefact involves substantial financial commitments. The complete restoration, including the intricate work by Cumbria Clocks, is estimated to cost around £48,000. Through the efforts of the Friends of St Mary's Chilham, £26,000 has already been raised towards the minimum goal of £20,000. Yet, the journey to full funding continues, and every contribution moves us closer to preserving this historical masterpiece.

How You Can Contribute

Your support is crucial in this endeavour to preserve a piece of Leonard Tennant's legacy. Donations can be made through our website, with various options available, including Credit cards and PayPal. Sharing our story on social media platforms like Facebook can also amplify our reach and encourage others to join in supporting this important cause.

Conclusion: The Tower Clock Restoration project at St Mary's Chilham is not just about preserving a timepiece, but about keeping alive the artistry of a bygone era. It’s a tribute to Leonard Tennant's craftsmanship and the skill of contemporary restorers like Cumbria Clocks. Your support can ensure that this historical treasure continues to tick, echoing the legacy of its creators for future generations.

Thank you for joining us on this historical journey, and remember, in the restoration of this magnificent timepiece, every second indeed counts!

Our journey continues, and there will be a lot more updates. If you haven't joined our mailing list yet, please do so! It is a the bottom of our Homepage.

This project is proudly sponsored by:

As you will see from their logos below, on behalf of the PCC, we have achieved grants totalling £8,500 from these organisations, for which we are very grateful.

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Dec 10, 2023

A really impressive initiative. Well done!


Dec 10, 2023

This is really interesting and well presented., I know someone who has been to the British Museum to see the Tennant clock held there. Good to see grants being obtained too.😀

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