On July 16 the restored Minster Church clock face was unveiled. It was the culmination of several months of fundraising followed by meticulous work on the historic clock face.
Alan Gimes, who was part of the village fundraising group, outlines the history, restoration and unveiling:
The church of St. Mary’s-in-Thanet Minster is believed to date from Saxon times and plays an important part in the life of Minster village and the surrounding area. It is a Grade 1 listed building and sits next to St. Mildred’s Priory which was established following the landing of St. Augustine at Ebbsfleet nearby in 670AD.
In the 1860s the church underwent a major renovation, including the clock and its face. There is a date of 1870 on the current clock face. The clock mechanism was overhauled in the 1920s and Minster Parish Council had agreed to take over the maintenance recently from Thanet council following withdrawal of support. The ravages of time and weather had a serious impact on the clock face itself and it was in dire need of restoration.
Without this restoration the village was likely to lose the clock forever.
The church clock face was present in 1790 – as a 14-year-old JMW Turner painted the church prior to entering the Royal Academy of Art.
The restoration of the clock face was a very specialised expensive process and involved skilful work in its removal and replacement. Therefore, a small group of villagers – John Quittenden, Derek Crow-Brown, Alan Gimes and Sue Hergest – came together to raise the sum of £15000 in order that the clock face could be restored to its former glory at the heart of the village.
The use of scaffolding was essential in the work and was provided by All Access, a local company.
The removal, restoration, and reinstalment were by the acclaimed experts in this work, Smiths of Derby, who annually service the clock mechanism.
The clock face was in a parlous state. Its exact age is unknown but from examination, some repair work had been done in the early 70s by a local carpenter.
Once the scaffolding was erected Smiths of Derby soon set about the removal of the clock face.
Contributions to the fund from the residents of Minster and beyond were generous. They included individuals, organisations, local firms, and farms together with the staging of music concerts and local sales.
Sue Hergest, the church warden, was able to smooth the path through The Church Commissioners and English Heritage, as the church is a Grade 1 listed building.
As time went on it became apparent that the raising of the funds was going to happen much quicker than was anticipated and it was thus so. The figure was raised in seven months.
Such was the state of the clock face that complete renewal was necessary. Smiths produced a solid oak face with a copper front and then added numerous coats of paint; layers of gold leaf were applied to the numerals and hands. This ensures longevity of the clock face for very many years.
When Smiths of Derby completed the work, reinstallation took place in June 2022 and once done the face was covered from view to await the unveiling ceremony on July 16.
The old clock face will be mounted in a display case by the members of the Minster Shed project and displayed in the church. The Shed project also intend to make small replicas of the new face as working clocks to be sold for Shed funds. A cracking idea.
On the day of the unveiling the sun shone, The Villages Voices Choir sang, and the clock struck 12noon as the new clock face was unveiled. It was a fitting culmination of the efforts of the fundraisers and the very generous people who made its restoration possible.
Heartfelt thanks go to a special lady, Dot London, who has long been associated with the church, for agreeing to perform the opening ceremony by cutting the tape.
Dot was born in Minster on the morning of May 6, 1932, in Church Street. Her mother told her that probably the first sound she ever heard was the church clock chiming. Over her long life she attended the old school, went to Sunday school, and became a member of the congregation.
Dot was christened, baptised in the church and in later life she took on opening and closing the church together with dusting and cleaning.
John, Derek, Alan, and Sue expressed their thanks for the assistance they received in this project. The support was munificent and gratefully received.
The Bell Inn laid on a BBQ and a fine spread of refreshments.
The stunning clock face will now bear witness to the commitment and generosity of the community of Minster Village and beyond for many years to come.
Well done Minster ,a fine example of community spirit,pride,generosity and love of our much cherished curches.Any hope for St John’s Margate ??
What a wonderful achievement , and great work by the clock Smith congratulations to all concerned