Since 1392 a clock has been chiming and turning in Wells Cathedral in the English county of Somerset. But the world’s oldest continually-working mechanical clock is now going to be electrically powered as its current caretaker announces his retirement.
It is believed the clock was built in the 1380s, but the first reference to it comes from 1392-93 when ten shillings was paid to its keeper by the cathedral. The clock features figures of two knights and two Saracens who go around in a circle fighting each other every 15 minutes. It also has a 24-hour dial, which shows both the time and the phases of the moon.
To keep the clock going, three 250 kilogram weights are winched up on a pulley system, and as they slowly pull down for two days, the force powers the mechanism. This mechanism, which has been replaced on a couple of occasions, has been continuously operated for close to 630 years.
Since 1987 the current timekeeper has been Paul Fisher, a job he inherited from his father and grandfather. Now, at the age of 63, he has decided to retire and the Friends of the Wells Cathedral are funding its replacement with an electronic motor.
Paul Fisher tells the SWNS News Service, “I’m a bit sad that all these years of history are coming to an end but winding the clock by hand is just so time consuming. By the time you have walked up all the steps and winded the weights it takes at least one hour three times a week.
“I feel very proud and privileged to have wound this magnificent clock and that my family has been involved in such a historic task. Even after my retirement I will still be keeping a watchful eye on the clock’s mechanism and will look in to oil ad check the time.”
Paul Robinson, an administrator at Wells Cathedral, told the BBC: “It is an end of an era and it’s very poignant for us all here. We look at the clock which has been here for 600 years and it had been wound manually over the last 80 years by the Fisher family.
“They have done a sterling job for us and we were then faced with the difficult decision as to what we do. Do we find someone else to do it; someone else who has a similar level of commitment to be here twice a week come rain and shine?
“We felt that might be something that’s just a little bit too much of a challenge for other people so we decided to come into the 21st Century.”
The clock will be wound for the last time on Saturday morning.