by Michael Maltin & Christian Dannemann
Since the re-discovery of the Salisbury clock in 1928, there have been doubts about the age of the clock. This article deals with some of the doubts raised.
It is most likely that the clock displayed today in Salisbury Cathedral was built between 1500 and 1529, then converted to turn clock-wise in 1613, converted to pendulum after 1670, then moved to the main tower in 1790, and finally replaced by a new clock in 1884. That would give it a life span of around 370 years, which is realistic.
It is quite likely that there were two previous clocks; the first one being a water clock (installed around 1300), and the second one, installed around 1450 - 1470, a first mechanical verge and foliot clock (probably of vertical door frame construction).
It can be safely assumed that any mention of a “clocke” or “horologium” from the 13th century refers to a water clock. There is no proof whatsoever that there were mechanical verge and foliot clocks in existence before 1300.
Water clocks were used as astronomical clocks with complex gears, and also as striking clocks.
The first mechanical striking clock was probably built in 1336-39 in Milan in Italy. Bilfinger makes the convincing argument that this is the first time a detailed report is available that tells us what the clock did. It struck every hour, and struck as many times as the number of the hour, so once at 1, twice at 2, etc. At that time, the Italians started counting 1 as the first hour after sunset, and 24 hours was at sunset. The clock struck from 1 to 24.
After that, turret clocks started appearing in impressive numbers all over Europe (see table in this Wikipedia article) , and probably the first turret clock in England was built at Westminster Palace in 1367. When the Salisbury clock that was mentioned in 1386 was built, striking clocks were already well known all over Europe.
Modern hours (equal hours, 12 at noon) were introduced in England from around 1370 onwards. A chronicle from 1373 mentions “hoc anno horologia distinguentia 24 horas primo inventa sunt” - “This year, the clock distinguishing 24 hours is invented for the first time”. [Eulogium historiarum a Honacho quodam Malmesburiensi exarator - according to Bilfinger].
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that were published in 1393, also mention modern hours (12 at noon), and he refers to time as “of the clok”. Chaucer also published a book about the Astrolabe in 1391, which uses modern hours (houres equales).
Throughout English literature from the turn of the 14th to the 15th century, references to hours after noon and “of the clock” appear. It can be safely assumed that by the turn of the century, modern hours were used throughout England. Bilfinger states that by 1385, the whole of England used modern hours.
“Universitas statuit et decrevit, quod diebus singulis horae studendi sint ante nonam ab hora nona usque ad undecimam, post nonam vero ab hora prima ad horam quartam, quas horas teneatur custos ille fideliter observare” (Statutes of the University of Oxford, 1412 Munimenta Academica I 265) which translates roughly to “Library opening hours from 9 - 11 in the morning and from 1 - 4 in the afternoon, which should be strictly observed.”
The operating instructions for the clock at the Graggenturm in Luzern, Switzerland, from 1386, refer to a “frowen gemuete” - a woman's mood, which refers to the back and forth movement of the foliot. The instructions also mention the two weights on the foliot and how the clock can be adjusted with them. The clock itself was made and installed in 1385, and the Luzern Town Council made Heinrich Halder, who built the clock (himself a citizen of Basel), write operating instructions for the clock, which were entered into the town records (Buergerbuch) in 1386.
|Swiss orginal||English translation|
|Als du das urleyn wiltt richten und das nider gewe uf ziehen oder ablan, so tuo das frowen gemuete von dem rade oder us dem rade, do es inne gat, und behab das kamprat sicher in der hant, oder das gewege verlieffe sich alsbalde, das das werg vil lichte brecht. Und so du das kamprat also in der hant hoebest, do mitte macht du denne das nider gewege abe lan, ob du die stunde wilt kúrzen, wilt du aber die stunde lengern, so zúhes uf, alles in solicher masse, das du nút ze vil noch ze wenig tuest und des nimmest du wol war am zalrade. |
Wenne du ouch das lúte rat nider zúhest, so macht du das zal rat setzen uf wele stunde du wit, es sie uf i, ii, iii, etcetera.
Und so das frowen gemuete ze balde gat, das dich dunke, so hebe die bli kloetzli vaste hin us an das redelin, und so es ze trege gat, so henke si hin in an das redelin, hie mitte macht du es hindern und fúrdern, wie du wit.
Sunderlich darf es ze nacht wol fúrderndes, wand das werg den merteil ze nacht treger got denne tages.
Der gewege nim beder war, so si sich ergangen habent, das si schiere nút me seilen habent, so zúch si wider uf, dis macht du tuon , wenne du wit.
|If you want to adjust the clock and put it forward or backward, disengage the foliot from the escape wheel and hold the escape wheel safely in your hand, or the weight will lose itself which might damage the clockwork. As you are now holding the escape wheel, use it to either let down the weight if you want to shorten the hour, or, if you want to lengthen the hour, pull it up, all in such a way that you are not doing too much nor too little and that you observe it well on the number wheel.
If you also pull down the [lute] wheel, you can set the number wheel to whichever hour you want, be it I, II, III, etc.
If you feel that the foliot is going too fast, lift the lead weights away from the wheel, and if it is too slow, move them towards the wheel, therewith you hinder or further it, as you like it.
You might want to make it faster during the night, as the clock work goes for most of the night slower than during the day.
Keep an eye on both weights, and if it happens that they have hardly any more rope, wind them up again, which you can do whenever you want to.
The most interesting points from these operating instructions:
In 1368, three clockmakers from Delft come to England and are given a letter that allows them free travel by Edward III. One of them, Johann van Delft, made the turret clock in Termonde in 1377.
Froissart mentions in his poem “L'Horloge Amoureuse” the equal hours of night and day:
|French original text||English translation|
|L'Orloge est, au vray considerer,|
Un instrument tres bel et tres notable,
Et s'est aussy plaisant et pourfitable,
Car nuict et iour les heures nous aprent
Par la soubtilite qu'elle comprent
En l'absence meisme dou soleil.
|The clock is, when you think about it,
A very beautiful and remarkable instrument,
And it's also pleasant and useful,
Because night and day it tells us the hours
By the subtlety of its mechanism
Even when there is no sun.
The poem is about the 1370 Tour de l'Horloge clock that Heinrich van Wieck built.
In 1388, the citizens of Bethune want to re-construct the existing belfry and put up a clock.
|French original||English translation|
|… pour pouvoir reconstruire leur beffroi qui etait a present moult demolis et venus k ruyne et en peril de keir (tomber) de jour en jour et en obtenir l'autorisation d'y placer une orloge pour memore des heures de jour et de nuit sicomme il est en pluseurs autres lieux et bonnes villes du paus environ||… to reconstruct their belfry which at present is demolished and turned into a ruin and is at risk of falling over any day now and to obtain the authorization to place a clock to keep track of the hours of the day and the night as it is now common in many other places and good towns of the land around”.|
This shows several things:
The striking clock is taking Europe by storm in the second half of the 14th century. Beforehand, water clocks were used to keep track of the time, and they were notoriously hard to maintain, needed constant attention and were thus expensive to run. At least two people working shifts had to look after each clock. Only rich institutions or monasteries (with enough cheap staff) could afford to run water clocks.
The spreading of the mechanical clock with verge & foliot is a 14th century technical success story comparable with inventions such as the radio or telephone.
We can safely assume that by 1386 verge & foliot clocks were known and used throughout Europe and that wherever a turret clock was installed, modern, equal hours were used.
The following entries in the cathedral accounts are known:
|Year||work carried out||noted by|
|1464-65||Item to Walter Seman, sacristan, for his custody of le Clok for the whole year, 16s. 8d.||S. Edward|
|1473-74||Payment to Walter Sextyn of 4s. 2d. for the care of the clock for one quarter.||Mr Fisher / S. Edward|
|1529||Also to a certain messenger for fetching the parts for the repair of the clock 16d.|
Also a payment in payment of the maker of the clock and for a messenger sent on his behalf from Shaffton to Ewern Coorteney [this is probably Iwerne Courtney, 26 miles South-West of Salisbury] 16d.
Also to the maker of the clock 13s. 4d.
|1530||Also on the 3rd of January we paid for the mending of the clock 4s.||Mr. Fisher|
|1558-59||Accounts of the Master of Works. Waiges and Stipends perteynigne to the Works.|
…Also payd to John Symes for kepinge the Clocke for the whole yere, XVI s VIII d
|1569-70||… Item to John Symes for kepinge the clocke, XVI s VIII d||S. Edward|
|1570-71||Item to John Symes for kepyinge the clocke, XVI s VIII d (this item repeated in subsequent years)||S. Edward|
|1613||to Thomas Davenant, the smith, for making the elevation for the Dial||S. Edward|
|1633||6d. for new oylinge and cullaringe the dyall on the belfree, and for setting up and taking down the scaffold||S. Edward|
As there is so little data, it is hard to make any conclusions either way based on it.
What strikes me about the 1529 entry is that money is paid to “the maker of the clock”. If the clock referred to was made in 1386, surely the maker of the clock would not be alive any more? Only the original text from the Fabric Accounts M.S. 191 could answer that question.
On the other hand, a fabrication date of the clock around 1520 is very realistic, looking at the design of the clock. Then an entry from 1529 referring to the maker of the clock would make sense.
From William Dodsworth, “An Historical Account of the Episcopal See and Cathedral Church of Sarum, or Salisbury”, London, 1814:
On the death of Wyvil, John de Wormenshal, canon of Salisbury, was elected by the chapter, and received the royal confirmation November 12, 1375; but the pope disapproved the choice, and nominated Ralph Erghum, doctor of laws, probably a foreigner, who was consecrated at Bruges, in Flanders, December 9,1375. He had scarcely taken possession, before he attempted to infringe the liberties of the church. His pretensions were resisted by the dean, Thomas de Montacute, and the chapter; and the cause, which was first referred to the king, and afterwards to Rome, continued pending till after he quitted the see.
At this period, the errors, abuses, and usurpations of the roman church, awakened general discontent against that mental bondage to which the christian world had long been reduced. The lofty pretensions of the clergy began to be questioned, both by the parliament and the nation; and Wickliff had called forth that spirit of inquiry, which ceased not to operate till it produced the reformation. In such circumstances, our prelate, who wanted neither pride of character, nor attachment to the head of the church, acted a conspicuous part; and he was one of the council at Oxford, before whom Wickliff was summoned, in 1382, to answer for his offensive positions with regard to the authority and pretensions of the pope.
After a considerable period of contention with the chapter, bishop Erghum was translated to the see of Bath and Wells, September 14, 1388.
It is hard to believe that the Dean and Chapter and the Bishop Ralf Erghum would have taken the decision to buy a clock in 1386. His 13 years as Bishop of Salisbury do not sound like a period in which anyone could have concentrated on procuring a clock.
In the book about Leo von Rozmital's journey across Europe, there is a passage that is attributed to his visit to Salisbury:
This is taken from Des böhmischen Herrn Leo's von Rozmital Ritter-, Hof- und Pilger-Reise durch die Abendlande 1465 - 1467, Stuttgart, 1844
|German Original||English Translation|
|Darnach fuert, man meinen herrn auf etlich kloster, ligen auch in Engelant, Benedictiner orden.|
Do sahen wir ausdermassen köstlicher kirchen zwuo, und zwu köstlich tafeln und elter und gar einen grossen gulden sarch, darin ligt der lieb herr sant Sigmund.
Und do weist man uns auch einen stein, darin die fusstritt Ih'u Cristi stent, der ist von Jerusalem kumen und ist am ölberg gewesen an der stat, do Unser Herr pfleglich gebetet hat, und vil wirdigs heiltums, das man uns sunst weiset.
Und sahen das köstlich werk von geschnitzten bildern, die man mit gewichten zuogerichtet hat, das sie sich bewegen auf mainung, wie die heiligen drey kunig das opfer Unser Frawen und irem kind brachten, und wie unser Herr nach dem opfer greif, und Unser Fraw und Joseph den heiligen drey kunigen neigten und reverenz theten, und wie des geleichen die heiligen drey kunig widerumb Urlaub namen; was alles so köstlich und meisterlich zugerichtet als lebets.
Des geleichen was auch von bildwerk ein figur, wie Unser Herr auss dem grab erstuond und wie jm die engel dienten. Das was überköstlich und loblich zu sehen.
Die Abt theten meinem berrn ser gross er und reverenz mit köstlichem essen und im pallast mit lebich und ander köstlikeit uberschwenklich geziert, und füerten ja in iren kor. Do horten wir das aller kostlichst korgesang, das alls gesatzt was, das lieblich zu horen was.
|After that [stay in London], my master was led to several monasteries, that also lie in England, Benedictine orders.
There we also saw two exquisite churches, and two exquisite boards and altars and a big golden coffin, in which the dear St. Sigmund lies.
And there a stone is pointed out to us, in which Jesus Christ's footprint is imprinted, which came from Jerusalem and was at the Mount of Olives, where our Lord used to pray, and lots of other relics that were pointed out to us.
And we saw a delectable work of carved pictures, that were equipped with weights, so that they move in a manner in which the Holy Three Kings brought sacrifices to Our Lady and her child, and how our Lord grabs the sacrifices [presents], and how Our Lady and Joseph bow to the Holy Kings and show reverence, and how the Holy Three Kings leave; which was all so delectably an masterly executed as if it were alive.
In the same manner, there was a figure showing our Lord rising from his grave and how the angels served him. All that was more than delectable and laudable to see.
The Abbot(s) did my master great honour and reverence with delectable food and in the palace with [lebich?] and other delectables lavishly decorated, and let us to their choir. There we heard the most delectable choral singing, that was ever set, which was lovely to hear.
I have translated this quite literally so that you can get an idea of the original text.
This passage is often used to prove that there were automata in the Salisbury cathedral in 1465. The text definitely describes automata. I just have a couple of problems with this:
The traveling party went to Winchester and saw the shrine of St. Swythun - that's phonetically closer to the German Sigismund than Osmund is. As they went from London to Poole, they went to Winchester and then to Salisbury, as two churches are mentioned. There is also a host of other relics at Winchester as he describes.
This indenture witnesses that the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of St. Mary of Salibury, with unanimous assent and will, have conveyed and demised to Reginald Glover and Alice his wife all that shop with with its appurtenances, situated and built on the ditch of the close of the canons of the said church, on the east side of the north gate of the said close, (the shop having been) ordained and assigned for the maintenance of a certain “clocke” in the bell tower of the said close. To have and to hold the said shop with appurtenances to the said Reginald and Alice as of the said Dean and Chapter and their successors from the day of the making of these presents to the end of 40 years next following fully to be complete, if the said Reginald and Alice shall live so long, freely and in peace. Rendering it annually to the said Dean and Chapter and their successors 16s. of silver at the four principal terms of the year by equal portions; repairing and maintaining the said shop with appurtenances, as necessary, at the expense of the said Reginald and Alice. And if they fail in this, or the payment of the said rent of 16 s. either in part or in whole for 15 days after any term, or if the said Reginald and Alice shall die within the said term or shall demise the said term to anyone, or shall lease or demise the said shop to anyone, then it shall be permitted to the Dean and Chapter and their successors or attornies, to enter into the said shop, take possession of it again and retain it as before, the aforesaid demise not notwithstanding, and similarly to take, carry away and retain all goods and chattels found in the said shop, in the name of a distraint, until the have full satisfaction for the said rent, arrears, damages and expenses which they have sustained in this matter. Saving to the Dean and Chapter and their successors the right of action for recovering arrears of rent and damage caused to the said shop in case sufficient distraint cannot be found in the said shop, notwithstanding all the above. And the said Dean and Chapter and their successors will warrant the said shop to Reginald and Alice to the end of the said 40 years, if Reginald and Alice live so long, against all people. In witness of which the said parties have put their seals alternately.
Given in the Chapter House of Salisbury, 14. Jan. 9 Richard II (1386)
Note: I'm afraid I don't have the Latin original of the text and that I have to rely on the translation given in Duley's “The Medieval Clock of Salisbury Cathedral”, 1977.
Outside of the deed (probably for filing) paraphrased as follows:
Quomodo Decanums et Capitulum traditerunt Reginaldo Glovere et Alixie uxori shopam cum pertinentiis sitam super fossatam clausi canonicorum ex parti orientale porte borialis clausi et pro sustenacione clocke in campanili.
The indenture shows that a certain Reginald and Alice Glover rented a shop that was used for the maintenance of the clock. They have to pay 16 s. rent a year, payable in equal parts each quarter. The rental period is 40 years, or, should they die before the 40 years are up, up to their death.
What strikes me is that Reginald and Alice have to pay for the shop - that would mean they are not paid to carry out maintenance work of the clock, but that they are renting the shop that was formerly used for the maintenance of a clock, and to use it for maybe another purpose. This could well mean that the shop was formerly used to maintain a water clock, which was not used any more in 1386 when the indenture was drawn up and the shop was re-purposed.
As any legally binding document, the text is very specific, e.g. as to how rent can be recovered if the two fail to pay it regularly.
If this document was about maintaining a clock, it would clearly state the duties involved and what measures could be taken to enforce that the work was carried out - no such thing is mentioned in the document, even though it is very specific about the lease of the shop itself. It is very unlikely that this indenture had anything to do with the maintenance of any clock. Furthermore, were Reginald and Alice employed to maintain a clock, they would surely be paid for the task, rather than having to pay rent.
The word “clocke” was only mentioned to describe the right shop - as it was previously used to maintain it - which could have been a bell, a water clock, or an early verge and foliot clock - but the document gives us no clue to this whatsoever.
The old belfry was probably built together with the main cathedral building and housed the bells. This was also the first location of a cathedral clock.
In 1790, the tower was demolished and the bells and clock mounted in the main tower of the cathedral.
|Aerial View||Old Print|
|This aerial view clearly shows the position of the old belfry.|
If you look around the blue marker, you can see a rectangular,
lighter square in the shape of the English Heritage logo
|This print shows the old belfry on the right
It is probably a print by Easton from 1759
The clock would have been converted to pendulum by this time, and no clock dial is visible.
This text was scanned and OCR processed from the original, which I do not have. Most of it is unedited.
By John Harding.
THE ancient Bell-tower, or Belfry as it had been called from bellfri the earliest times, stood between the east wall and the north wall of the churchyard, very near the spot where there is now a solitary and weather-beaten old elm tree, which is shown in the print of the south-east view of the Belfry given by Hatcher as a young tree, growing near the doorway.
Visitors to the Cathedral during the dry summers of 1887 and 1893, after passing a few yards into the churchyard on their way to the north porch, could hardly have failed to notice, in the turf to the left of the path, traces of the buried foundations of walls and buttresses, mapped out in broad brown patches of withered grass. These marks indicated the site of the old Belfry, and are visible from time to time after a long continuance of dry summer weather.
It is remarkable that no writer has left us any description of this building ; all that can be known of it, therefore, is furnished by the old views of the Cathedral in which it appears. One of the best of those is the large north-east view of the Cathedral published by Easton in 1759 ; upon this print the Belfry is a conspicuous object. Price, in his “Observations upon the Cathedral”, which he published in 1753, “For the Use and Amusement of GENTLEMEN and other curious PERSONS,” gives a plan and section of the Belfry drawn to a small scale, and also an elevation of the lower portion of the edifice, which was of stone, in order to show his design for covering in the building when the tower and steeple should be taken down, as was at that time contemplated and soon after carried into effect — when, however, Price's scheme was not adopted, but a plainer and less expensive roof, covered with slate, substituted.
The Belfry was a building of great strength and solidity, admirably adapted to its purpose of containing a great peal of bells. The sub-structure was 33ft. square in the clear of the walls, which were of stone, about 8ft. thick, flanked by three buttresses on each of its four sides, and rising to a height of nearly 80ft, from the ground to the top of the parapet. On each side were four lancet windows, and in the centre of the interior an octagonal stone shaft, from which projected corbels supporting the timbers of the floors. On the exterior there was a boldly-moulded plinth to the walls and buttresses, similar to that on the outside of the Cathedral. This was repeated in the interior and around the central shaft. The buttresses were divided into four slightly diminishing stages by moulded weatherings and string-com-ses[?], the latter being continued along the walls and as a hood mould over the arches of the windows; the buttresses terminated in gablets at the level of the parapet.
Above this massive and lofty stone base was a superstructure of oak, consisting first, of a square tower, each external face being divided into eight arched compartments with tracery heads and spandrels, four of these divisions were pierced as windows, and the openings filled with louvres. Above the tower rose an octagonal turret, divided into stages by horizontal strings and covered with lead-work of herring-bone or zig-zag pattern, finished by an embattled parapet ; from this level sprang the steeple, which was also covered with lead of similar design, and terminated with a metal cross ; the weather-cock which appears above the cross in views of the Belfry having no doubt been a later addition to it.
The entire height of the structure from the grass of the churchyard to the top of the cross was about 200ft., being some 50ft. higher than the leaden roof, which in all probability covered the original tower of the Cathedral.
The door was in the south wall, between the middle and eastern buttresses. A circular stone staircase, reached by a short passage from a doorway on the inside of the east wall, was formed in the thickness of the masonry of the south-east angle, and continued to the top of the stone structure, where it was covered in by a lead roof just above the parapet. The ringing-loft was 37ft. above the ground-floor, and the bell-chamber 32ft. higher, each storey being lighted by eight windows, two in each wall.
The Belfry was undoubtedly coeval with the Cathedral, the striking similarity of the two buildings in general design, and in detail, being conclusive evidence that they were the work of the same architect. Being specially designed to receive the bells the Belfry would certainly be completed and furnished with them when the Cathedral was consecrated in 1258 : they were probably brought from the Cathedral at Old Sarum, in which, as the Consuetudinary of St. Osmund clearly shows that a peal existed, for it directs when the bells are to be rung, and in defining the duties of the Sacristan includes the care of the bells, for which the Treasurer is enjoined to provide the funds.
In what follows much use has been made of the extracts taken many years ago, by the late Mr. Frederick Richard Fisher [Mr. Fisher was Clerk of the Works to Salisbury Cathedral, and his father before him.], of Salisbury, from the annual accounts of the Clerks of Works to the Cathedral, and from other books and documents in the muniment room, which he was allowed to examine when I for a time assisted him. These accounts, so far as examined, go back to 1473, and contain many items of interest to the archgeologist, and historian of the Cathedral. As an instance it may he mentioned that the accounts for 1479 and 1480 contain the charges in connection with the stone vault under the tower, the date of this work not being known until it was found in these accounts.
Notwithstanding St. Osmund's provision for the care of the bells, it is evident that in course of time they were much neglected, for Dodsworth relates that as early as 1331 a letter of remonstrance was addressed by the Chapter to the Treasurer, upon the danger to which the rich treasures of the Church were exposed, and further : —
“That the bells in the belfry with much art suspended, of great weight and price, and sweet sounding to the ears, by the fault of your officers are suffered to decay, and rendered totally useless for ringing.”
There was also a clock in the Belfry at an early date, for there is, among the Clerk of the Works' papers a lease or grant for forty years, bearing date 1386, from the Dean and Chapter to Reginald Glover and Alice his wife, of
” A shop built over the fosse of the Close of the Canons of the Church of the clock in the belfry of the said Close.”
There is a charge in the account for 1473 of 4s. 2d. to Walter the Sexton for the care of the clock for one quarter, and the same salary was paid until 1661. The clock remained in the Belfry until the latter was taken down in 1790, when it was removed to the Cathedral tower, where it was kept going until 1884, when it was superseded by the excellent clock and chimes presented to the Cathedral by the officers of the 62nd, or Wiltshire Regiment.
There is also mention of a dial on the Belfry, to which the following payments refer.
In 1613 :—
“To Thomas Devorant the smith for making the elevation for the dial 11s. 8d. ; to Cobell the painter [?]s. ; to the joyner for his paynes 15s. ; to Orpen (carpenter) for three days about the same dial 3s. 6d. ; to Singer for so many days work 2s. 4d.”
Again, in 1633 is the following : —
“For new oylinge and cullaringe the dyall on the belfree (i.v., and for setting up and taking down the scaffold 8s.”
From very early times shops and other buildings stood very near the Belfry, if some were not actually built against it. There is reference to these in 1473, when ” three shoppis subtus le belfray ” are mentioned. Also in 1558 the rent of “two Shoppes” in the west part of the Belfry is credited. Some of them were used for workshops or stores in connection with the Cathedral, while others were let as shops or dwelling-houses, and one as an inn or “ale- house,” which so continued until 1790, when the whole of these buildings were taken down with the Belfry. In 1627, by a decree of the court of quarter sessions, all the alehouses in the Close were suppressed, with the exception of the one kept by Hugh Maunds, who was a labourer employed about the work of the Cathedral, and one of the ringers, so that probably he kept the alehouse under the belfry. In March, 1757, the Dean and Chapter ordered “that no liquors be sold at the Belfry after Michaelmas next.”
The charges relating to the bells in the Clerk of the Works' accounts are innumerable, the bells, or the parts belonging to them, seeming to be always getting out of order. One of the earliest entries in 1473 is for
” Blostryng le stokke magn. campan and torning le cloke bell two dies in la belfray.”
In the same year and subsequently the Sacrist, or Sexton, was paid a shilling per annum for oiling the bells. The followiug payments in the accounts for 1480 refer to a new bell : —
” Et in denar Solut Thome Grey and John Breute iro carriag nov campan dr Domo eneator usque le belfray rope for the new bell 36 “Timba pro le belstoeke.”
The first item proves that a bell-foundry existed in Salisbury at least a century before the earliest date hitherto assigned to it, viz., 1581, when it was carried on by John Wallis, who in that year cast a new bell for St. Martin's Church, in Salisbury. The foundry was in Gruilder Lauo, anciently called Bell-founder Street, and appears to have been closed in 1731.
In 1630 the tenor was re-cast, and the following payments are charged in connection with that important event : —
“To a Carpenter and his man for two days about …. taking,' down of the Great Bell 4 8.
“For the rent of the House where the bell was cast this whole year 13'. 4'.
” Kingston and liis man one day in fitting the great bell to be taken down to be cast.
” To eight Labourers a day in taking down the Great bell to be cast 4'.
” To four other Labourers one day 4.'.
” The Carpenter and his two men two and a half days about the same 5”
“To six Labourers to load and unload the bell at his carriage and …. and to roll him into the Belfry 10”.
” To eight Labourers more half a day to help in the bell 3'. 4
“To the Carpenter and his man four days in helping and new hanging the
Great Bell 9”. 4.
” To a Labourer the like 3”. 4
” Grease for the Bell 4 .
” Ringer to try the Bell 1'.
” A clamp for the Bell 1
” Nails ()
” For carrying and …. the Bell 17'.
” A sole for the Great Bell 4\ 10”'.
” Nails and wedges 1'. 2.
” For a Rope for the Bell-founder to uncast his bell 12'. 2'*.
” For mending the Great Bell clapper 13'. 4'.
” Two Labourers one day for carrying the planks, trestles, and other things
from the Bell-house 1'. 4
” To the Bell-founder towards his charges in travelling 5'. 4.
” To Kingston and his men three days in new hanging the Great Bell 7'.”
Besides the “Clock Bell” the “Morning Bell” is mentioned in 1531, St. Osmund's bell, and “the Bell for the fyrst Masse” in 1559, and “the tylling Bell” in 1563. The bell which was cast in 1480, a few years after the canonization of St. Osmund, might have been the one which was called by his name.
It is uncertain what number of bells constituted the ancient peal. Probably there were twelve, for the tenth bell is referred to in 1531, and as it is not called the “Great Bell,” as is usually the case in the accounts when speaking of the tenor, it is likely that there would be two below it. However this may have been, the peal was reduced to an octave in 1661, the tone of the tenor being B natural; this was the case until the breaking up of the peal in 1790.
During the troublous times of the Civil Wars and Commonwealth the Belfry and bells suffered much damage from neglect, as well as from wanton mischief. Upon one occasion the building was garrisoned by a party of Ludlow's men, who, being besieged by the Royalists, were forced to capitulate, the latter having rendered the place untenable by burning down the door.
Soon after the Restoration, viz., in 1661, “William Purdue, who then carried on the Salisbury foundry, was employed to re-cast some of the larger bells. At the same time the Clerk of the Works gives credit for having received £362 [?] for bell-metal, which was probably that of the smaller bells, which were then broken up. One of the bells cast at this time by William Purdue was the sixth in the peal, and was removed to the tower of the Cathedral when the Belfry was taken down, being the same upon which the clock strikes, and is tolled daily for divine service. It bears the following inscription: — ” Imi>knsis Eccr.Esi.Ts William Pvrdve Fvs.\ Anno Eegls Caroli Q”xiii Aoo Dni 1661.”
The following entries occur in the account for 1668 : —
“Casting 59 lbs. of brasses for ye Great Bell at 4”'. per lb. £1 „ 09 „ OC. “41bs. of new brasses „ 04' ,, 04'.”
In the year 1671 Bishop Seth Ward held a visitation of the Cathedral, when the Dean and Chapter, in answering the articles relating to the Belfry and bells, say : —
“The Belfry and tower want repair.”The Timber to the Piremid of the Belfry is defective.” “The Belfry wants lead to the quantity of three or four tons.” “The south side of the Belfry being closed up windows prevents the bells' sound from being heard.” “The seventh and eighth bells are broken and useless till they be re-cast.”
We have seen that the eighth bell was re-cast so recently as in 1630, yet now in 1671 the process is again necessary.
The peal remained in this mutilated condition for nine years longer, but on August 16th, 1680, a contract was entered into “between the Dean and Chapter and Clement Tosier of the City of New Sarum, bell-founder, and Elizabeth Fleury, of the said city, widow,” the founders agreeing “to re-cast the seventh and eighth bells,” and to find the new metal necessary, which metal was to be composed “of eight parts of the best copper and two parts of the sliortest tin” ; to be paid twenty shillings per hundred-weight for the casting, and £6 for every hundred-weight of the extra weight of the bells.
In connection with this contract are the following payments : —
“August 19th, 1680. Charge in taking down and weighing the two Great Bells and Drinke 12/6
” Sept. 4th. Carrying the Bells up to the Foundry 10/-
” Charge for Meate and Drinke at the casting the Bells £1 „ 12 „ 0.
” For bringing them downe into ye Close 10/-
” Charge in wayiog them and putting them up into the tower . . . .and Beer 12/6.”
No payments are charged for ringing in the Clerk of the Works' accounts before the time of Queen Elizabeth. One of the earliest was in 1613, when the bells were rung for the King (James I.) and Queen upon the occasion of one of their visits to Salisbury; after that time the bells were rung in celebration of all events of current national or local interest. Salisbury was much honoured by royal visitors during the seventeenth century, and there was a vast amount of bell-ringing to celebrate their coming and going and movements while staying in the Close. In 1665 King Charles having expressed a desire “to hear the Bells,” the ringers were paid ten shillings by the Dean and Chapter to gratify His Majesty's wish.
On July 26th, 1671, the bells were pealed when the same monarch “ran through the City” ; also in 1684, when the Duke of York was in the town. On February 6th, 1685, they were rung “for the hopes of the King's [Charles II.] recovery,” and on the 9th — three days after — “for the proclaiming of King James II.” Again, a few months later, there is ringing “for the taking of Aigyle in Scotland,” also “for the routing of Monmouth in the West, and soon after “for the taking of Monmouth at Ringwood.” In the same spirit of loyal recognition of “the powers that be” the bells were rung in October, 1688, “when King James came to the Town,” and again, on December 4th, the ringers were paid for “ringing up the Prince of Orange come to Town.” The Bishop was always greeted by the bells upon his appointment to the see, or arrival at the palace, and also at his visitations. In May, 1634, the ringers were paid 13s. 4d. for “ringing for the Visitation of the Lord Archbishop [Laud] His Grace” ; and on July 24th, 1686, another Archbishop's visitation is “rung,”at a cost of [?]. Ten shillings a year was paid for “ringing the curfew,” the first entry being in 1616 and the last in 1642.
Early in the eighteenth century the idlers who were attracted to the annual fair which was held in the Close at Whitsuntide, were allowed, upon payment of a fee to the sexton, to roam over the Belfry, and to tamper with the bells; in the same way they were permitted to wander about the roofs and gutters of the Cathedral, and to ascend to the eight doors, when the more venturesome of them would climb the ladders on the inside of the spire, and at the risk of their lives get out through the opening of the weather-door, and clamber up to the top, for Price states that as many as eight or ten persons at a time have been seen clustering about the capstone. It is a notable fact that not one of these foolhardy adventurers ever missed his hold at that giddy height. The Dean and Chapter at length put a stop to these insane practices, and in the case of the Belfry they ordered : —
“That no Persons should be allowed to jumble the Bells during the Whitsuntide Holidays.”
But it would seem that the order came too late, for in 1746 it is stated “that …. of the Bells are cracked and the rest out of tune,” so that the ringing was imperfect, and it was accordingly ordered on October 10th that : —
“After the fifth Day of November next, no peals shall be rung on any occasion whatever, until the cracked Bells can be re-cast, and the rest properly tuned.”
The sound of the bells in such a woeful condition would be both ludicrous and irritating to all who were within hearing of it, particularly to those who resided near the Belfry, and the order of the Chapter must have given general satisfaction.
The bells were never re-cast nor tuned, but in 1762 an application was made to Bishop Thomas for a faculty to sell six of them, which was not granted by him. The Clerk of the “Works, nothwithstanding, was afterwards instructed to make an estimate of the weight and value of the whole of them, of which the following is a copy :—
“Mr. Robt. Wells values the Bells at [?]d. per lb. and is the most he will give for them in place if taken in exchange, and 9d. per lb. for the whole if no new bells are cast.”
From this report it will be seen that only three of the bells were in the bell-chamber, viz., the 1st, 4th, and 6th, all the others, being cracked, had been lowered to the ground-floor.
Another application to the Bishop (Hume) ” for permission to sell the useless bells,” was made in 1777, the profits therefrom arising
“To be appropriated to the proposed improvement or future improvement in repairs of the Church.”
Bishop Hume was at that time engaged in removing the seats and fittings from the nave of the Cathedral, in undoing Sir Christopher Wren's work in the choir, and forming closets, or rather boxes, with galleries over, at the back of the stalls, approached by staircases in the choir aisles. The petition of the Chapter which gave promise of additional funds to be used “for the improvements of the Church” met with a favourable reception from the Bishop,
[?] was granted. After this no time was lost in disposing of the five bells which were on the Belfry floor, where they had lain awaiting their fate for eleven or twelve years.
There still remained the three bells which were left hanging in the bell-chamber; of these the first and fourth were afterwards sold for £105 [?], and the sixth removed to the Cathedral tower, as before stated.
During and subsequent to the troubles of the seventeenth century, or for a period of over one hundred years, no repairs of any importance appear to have been done to the Belfry, the upper part of which, being of wood, gradually got into a bad state, so that at length, in November, 1758, the Chapter,
“Taking into consideration the state and condition of the Belfry and Library belonging to the Cathedral Church, and being informed by able and experienced workmen upon careful survey by them taken that they are in a . . . ruinous condition. And the form and construction of the Spire and Tower of the Belfry being such that they are neither useful nor ornamental, inasmuch that it would be to no purpose to repair the same in its present form especially as it could not be done without a much greater expense than the present state of the Fabrick fund will admit of. It was therefore unanimously agreed, resolved and ordered (the consent of the absent members having been hereto previously obtained) : —
“1st. That the said Tower and Spire be forthwith taken down, and that the Master of the Fabrick do give orders to the Clerk of the Works accordingly.
“2ndly. That the Master of the Fabrick be desired to consider and take advice about a Plan for finishing and completing the Belfry in a neat and proper manner, when the Spire and Tower thereof shall be taken down.
“Mr. Lush the Clerk of the Works was accordingly instructed to prepare plans of the Belfry, and lay the same before the Chapter.”
However, the resolution of November, 1758, was not carried into effect until ten years after, for in 1769 Mr. Lush was
“Admonished to proceed in the work begun at the Belfry with all possible expedition, he having greatly neglected the same.
The steeple and octagonal tower were soon after taken down, and the square tower under them covered in with a slated roof of low pitch. The parts taken away were those which lent grace and lightness to the structure, and now being removed and the bells gone, the building came to be regarded as useless, and as an obstruction to a view of the Cathedral from the north, so that its entire demolition twenty years later was looked upon with in- difference and even approval.
In 1787 orders were given for an estimate to be made of the materials of the Belfry, with a view to its being taken down, of which the following is a copy : —
“Valuation of Belfry as it now is standing in the Cathedral Churchyard at Sarum, November, 1787 : —
Slate and boarding 54 15
Timber 107 16
Iron work 3 13
Dwelling house 8
” By us Ed” Lush
MoutTON & Atkinson Ed” Lush, Jun'.”
In March, 1790, as before stated, the clock and bell were removed to the Cathedral, the Belfry taken down and the materials ordered to be advertised and sold. In pursuance of this order the following advertisement appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of March 15th, 1790 : —
” To Builders, or Persons engaged in Building. To be Sold, in any quantity, and upon reasonable terms, the materials of a very large Building ; consisting chiefly of Stone Ashler, Rubble Walling, Oak Timber, Lead, Iron, Slates, Tiling, and various articles of inside finishing, the particulars of which may be known by applying to Mr. Matthews, Clerk of the Works carrying on at the Cathedral at this place.”
At that time the lamentable works which were done under James Wyatt at the Cathedral were in progress, and there can be little doubt that the Belfry was demolished with the object of supplying, from the sale of the materials, substantial aid to the fund raised for the purpose of carrying out those works.
It has been pointed out to me by Mr. A. R. Maiden (Chapter Clerk) that the Belfry was built square with the Cathedral, opposite the middle of the nave, so that an imaginary line drawn at a right angle across the nave, through the centre of its length, and extended northward would pass through the centre of the Belfry. The architect probably chose this position for the Belfry in order that, in the view of the Cathedral from the north, its lofty tower and steeple might break up the long line of the roof and upper part of the nave.
Mr. Maiden has also observed that the external dimensions on plan, of the Cathedral tower and of the Belfry, are nearly, if not quite, identical, and that the length of the nave of the Cathedral is about the distance between the two buildings.
It would be interesting to verify these measurements upon the occurrence of another tropical summer, when the exact position and lines of the old building might be again revealed.
It is hard to believe that a clock from 1386 would have survived the conditions described in this article.
An Interesting point in this article is the mention of a dial purchased in 1613. As the photo below of the clock as it was found in 1928 shows, the whole mechanism that releases and locks the strike was at one point moved to the front (front as the clock stands today) of the clock, allowing the reversal of direction of the going train. It was previously thought that this was done when the clock was modified to use a pendulum instead of the verge & foliot, but this was probably done in 1613 to allow the clock to drive an hour hand in the correct direction. The clock as it is today turns the great wheel of the going train anti-clockwise. Reversing the going train allowed the clock to drive an hour hand with two sets of gears with an overall 12:1 ratio. At the same time, the main arbor of the going train was extended (as observed in 1956 when the going train arbor was X-rayed by Rolls Royce) to allow a link to a clock dial.
When the clock was converted to a pendulum after 1670, it was modified in a way that made the main arbor of the going train turn once every two hours. As the pendulum was now in the way of the arbor of the great wheel, it is most likely that at that point, the clock dial was not used any more.
Let's have a look at some clocks from the 14th to the 17th century.
According to Ungerer, “Cette figure, extraite de l'ouvrage de Moinet, semble avoir été dessinée, par cet auteur, d'une mainière fantaisiste, et ne peut pas être considerée comme document.” [This drawing, taken from the works of Moinet, was drawn, by the author in an imaginary way, and can not be taken as a document]. As Ungerer is a third generation clock maker from Strasbourg, I trust him on this one.
This drawing was made in the 19th century and only shows what a 19th century author thought a 14th century clock looked like.
The only thing left of the di Dondi Astrarium is the above drawing.
There are quite a few surviving 15th century clocks. They tend to be vertically aligned, with the striking train above the going train, and the foliot swinging below the clock. Most clocks have been converted to pendulum in the 17th century, and some (Castle Combe) were turned on their head for that purpose.
|1484 Exeter. The right hand striking train is believed to date from 1484. |
Note that the count wheel has equally distant notches,
meaning the clock only strikes once no matter what the hour.
|1489 Cotehele. Vertical door frame construction.||14nn Castle Combe, vertical door frame construction||14nn Marston Magna, vertical door frame construction|
In the 16th century, the four-post “bedframe” construction emerges, with the two trains end to end or at a 90º angle.
Four-post “bedframe” construction, trains end to end. Towards the end of the 17th century, side by side aligned trains emerge.
|Detail of the 1509 Sancerre clock|
(from Beeson: English Church Clocks 1280 - 1850)
image flipped horizontally
|Hoop wheel and hatchet of the Salisbury clock - exactly the
same design as the 1509 Sancerre clock.
Are there really 123 years between those two clocks?
N.B.: Beeson states in his book that the Sancerre clock is 15th century, but I have the inventory sheet of the Bourges museum (thanks to M. Patrick Auger), where the clock was until 1993, stating clearly that the clock is 16th century. When Beeson saw the clock, it was in a museum in Bourges, but the clock has since been returned to Sancerre and it is back in its original location in the Beffroy de Sancerre, place de l'église (thanks to M. Fabien Perreau for this information).
There is a clear evolution in foliot clock design. It starts out with very simple door frame constructions, then striking trains are added (still door frame construction, trains one above the other), and then, at the turn from the 15th to the 16th century, bed frame constructions appear all over Europe.
If the Salisbury clock dated from 1386, that would mean that bed frame construction was first done then, only to be forgotten until 110 years later… It is highly unlikely that a technique, which in the end is used all over Europe, is used somewhere, forgotten for 110 years, and then is revived to win the race as the most used construction form for turret clocks.
All 15th century clocks use flail locking. Only at the beginning of the 16th century, hoop wheel and hatchet locking appears. The Salisbury clock has a hoop wheel with a hatchet.
I find especially the detail comparison with the 1509 Sancerre clock striking. It would be hard to believe that those clocks are 123 years apart.
The sample below has only been selected by manufacture year from Ungerer's “Horloges Astronomiques et Monumentales”. Only clocks for which the date it was taken out of service was unknown were disregarded, so no selection on service life has been made.
|Country||Town||Building||Installation year||taken out of service||years in service|
|Italy||Sienna||Torre del Mangia||1360||1425||65|
|France||Rouen||Grosse Horloge||1396||still working||615|
Half of the clocks just make it to less than 200 years and are then replaced. The next quarter makes it to 400 years; usually with a lot of documented repairs and alterations.
The last quarter reaches up to 500 years, with one exception - the Grosse Horloge in Rouen, which has been repaired and modified so many times that it is hard to see what parts of the clock actually date back to 1396. All clocks in that third group can't be traced back to their 14th century original, and it is not known if the movement that was taken out of service actually had any parts of the original movement left in it.
It can thus be stated that the normal lifespan of a late 14th century clock is roughly 200 years; and only with major repairs and overhauls can a lifespan of 400 years be reached. The group of clocks with a lifespan over 400 years consists of clocks which are not accurately dated and where doubts of their originality were raised.
Looking at photos of the Salisbury clock from 1928, it is striking how consistent the clockwork looks. Even though it has been modified to use a pendulum, the striking train looks almost unmodified. It certainly doesn't look like a clock that has been repaired and overhauled many times.
All clocks listed with a lifespan of 400 years and over probably aren't the original clocks. A lifespan of roughly 370 years (if the Salisbury clock had been manufactured between 1500 and 1529) is about right.
There are absolutely no remaining 14th century turret clock works in existence that could be compared to Salisbury or Wells
Apart from Rouen, Salisbury and Wells, there are no remaining clocks or parts of the original clockwork left. Rouen has undergone so many repairs and modifications, that no visible trace of the original clock can be found.
Salisbury and Wells are quite similar, but resemble more clocks constructed between 1500 and 1620.
It is surprising that the Salisbury and Wells clocks should be the only surviving 14th century clocks in the world, especially when the exceptionally good state of both clocks is taken into account.