History of Chertsey’s Tower

The tower was built as part of the original church in the early 1300’s.

The nave of the church was rebuilt in the period 1806-1810, however, apart from some strengthening work, the tower and chancel are more or less original. Popular tradition ascribes the founding of the parish church to John de Rutherwyk, abbot of Chertsey 1306-1347, and it seems consistent with this that the earliest vicar whose name has been preserved was one Richard le Gayte, who became vicar on 14th March 1310; there is, however, documentary evidence that the “chapel of Chertsey” was in existence before 1290, the document being a permit of that date allowing Chertsey Abbey to retain that benefice.

The tower at present contains eight bells, the tenor weighing 20cwt 0qr 14lb. (In Imperial units 1 ton = 20 hundredweight (cwt) = 80 quarters (qr) = 2240 pounds (lb). A metric tonne is about 2200 pounds.)

The Clock

The clock which has a Grimthorpe gravity escapement was built by Messrs. Smith of the “Midland Steam Clock Works, Derby” (so named on account of the power source used to drive the machinery). It is driven by three weights – one each for the hours, quarters and timekeeping trains. The clock was given in 1892 by the Herring family and replaced an older, single-dial clock installed in 1742 by S. Collins of Chertsey but probably made by Davies of Windsor. This earlier clock is now in the church tower of Eltisley, a village near Papworth Everard on the A428 (was A45) between Cambridge and St.Neots, and is still in use.

The clock has been fitted with electric motors to wind the three trains, however the quarters train (on the left-hand-side of the picture above) is normally wound manually as it is quicker. The clock requires winding twice a week and is normally would prior to practice and service ringing.

The clock drives four clock dials which are mounted on the tower above the level of the bell chamber roof. The picture shows the leading off work which drives the clock hands.

The “Carillon”

A carillon (or more correctly a “drum chime”) playing Victorian tunes four times daily was bestowed in 1893 by Mr. Spink. It consists of a drum fitted with pegs which trip hammers to strike the bells. The shaft on which the hammer trips are mounted slides laterally such that different tunes are played according to the position of a cam, thereby allowing different tunes to be played. Each tune has two verses on the drum and is also played twice, resulting in four verses.

It plays four tunes:

  • “We love the place, O God (Quam dilecta)” (8am)
  • “Home Sweet Home (comp. Sir Henry Bishop)” (1pm)
  • “Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing (Sicilian Mariners)” (5pm)
  • “The day is past and over (St. Anatolius)” (10pm).

The drum chime is now driven by an electric motor controlled by microswitches.