By Martin Clarke
Nestled in a quiet corner of Buckinghamshire is the village of Aston Abbotts; a village which goes back to the Doomsday Book and has a rich vein of history. The Parish Church of St. James the Great is in a perpendicular style built in the early 16th century and is located to one side of the village.
The church clock has a single face and the current mechanism was manufactured by Gillett & Co. in 1889 to replace an older device. It was the generosity of a local farmer which purchased the new clock.
The clock was originally wound by hand and villager John Ford carried this out daily with three weights in all to power the clock, chimes and strike mechanisms. The weights are now wound with three electrical motors avoiding the need to climb the very steep winding staircase each day.
Andy Bystra currently looks after the clock, a duty he took on more by chance. Andy has lived in Aston Abbotts for around 42 years and got involved with the church, as part of village life, by repairing church artefacts. He then went on to manage the redecoration of the church interior. After the clock developed a fault, Andy was asked if he could repair it and he has been looking after the clock ever since.
Andy is a tool maker by profession and has a strong engineering background which is fortunate as the clock has required his mechanical knowledge to keep it running, regulate the movement and repair as required; on one occasion replacing the pendulum arm spring – not an easy task due to the tight work space and the weight to be lifted.
Caroline Abel Smith is Churchwarden and she was in attendance recently along with Andy to welcome the engineer from Gillett and Johnston to work on the mechanism that has not worked since spring this year. Caroline indicated her keenness to have the clock working again along with the chimes as this is an important part of the village.The simple and clear clock face is starting to show the effect of the elements but is still fully functional.
As this article is published the engineer from Gillett and Johnston has had to remove the main wind motor for repair and it is hoped that after the service the clock will once again provide accurate time keeping for the village along with the quarter hour chimes.
Other historical village details are available via www.aston-abbotts.co.uk