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Appeal to save historic ‘Rolls Royce’ of clocks

The restoration of the clock at All Saints Church in Oakham. Louis Totaro with Nigel Campion winding the clock'Photo: Alan Walters EMN-160405-175232001
The restoration of the clock at All Saints Church in Oakham. Louis Totaro with Nigel Campion winding the clock'Photo: Alan Walters EMN-160405-175232001

A fundraising campaign has been launched to help preserve a historic church clock which was made alongside the mechanism inside Big Ben.

The clock in the tower at All Saints Church, in Oakham, is described by experts as “the Rolls Royce of movements” and was installed by Dent & Co in 1858.

The London-based company, widely regarded as the finest clockmaker in Britain in the 19th century, is renowned for creating the Great Clock of Westminster – which is commonly known as Big Ben and probably the most famous clock in the world.

Oakham’s clock was engineered and assembled in the Dent & Co workshop at the same time as the Big Ben mechanism.

Louis Totaro, who as ‘tower captain’ at All Saints is in charge of the clock, tower and bells, said: “At the time Oakham’s clock was being made, Sir Edmund Beckett Denison was technical adviser to Frederick Dent and much of the inventive work he carried out on this, and several similar movements, were incorporated into the final design of the Great Clock.

“All Saints Oakham’s clock was not only a prototype to the world-renowned Big Ben, but also represented a new standard for all high-quality turret clocks ever since.”

Oakham’s 158-year-old clock is currently in working order but beginning to show its age and experts have advised the winding mechanism - currently wound by hand every two days - should be mechanised to reduce wear.

With work due to start next year on a £29 million refurbishment of Big Ben, All Saints representatives thought the time was right to raise some funds and ensure its clock will live on for centuries to come.

Louis, 38, has a long connection with All Saints. He served as a chorister as a boy, then progressed to bell-ringing. His grandfather Sam ‘Bob’ Hoy, who died in 1993, was a previous tower captain.

The first phase of restoration work, which is expected to cost £5,140, will see the auto-winding mechanism installed and radio technology used to synchronise the clock with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The clock will also be fitted with a battery, to keep it running in the event of a power cut, and the new system will automatically adjust from GMT to daylight saving time.

The new system will not disturb the fabric or function of the clock itself and could be easily removed if required.

Louis added: “We don’t quite have the budget of the Big Ben refurbishment, but we are determined to preserve an important part of our heritage - for Oakham and the nation.”

About £1,000 has already been secured through generous donations and a number of fundraising events are being planned. The first, due to take place later this month, will see members of the Oakham All Saints Scouts group climbing up and down the church tower in an attempt to notch up a total climb equivalent to the height of Mount Everest – a whopping 8,848 metres.

If you would like to make a donation, or organise a fundraising event, Louis can be contacted on 01572 724007.

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