The Steeple, The Bell & Dumbarton’s Town Clock

Many thanks to Bert Wilson for the following details & pictures of the Steeple, Clock & Bell…

The Clock and Bell

Steeplejacks repairing the Church

Steeplejacks repairing the Church

The Clock Loft and clock mechanism is reached by climbing, firstly the telescopic loft ladder from the Upper Vestibule to the level of the Church Loft, followed by another climb up a steep wooden ladder to the level of the Tower Windows – a good all-round view of the Town, Rivers Clyde and Leven, and the surrounding hills is had from this level. Lastly is another steep wooden ladder to the Clock Loft.

The clock mechanism is enclosed in a large wooden case with glass access doors front and back and lighting is installed. The clock has four faces each measuring about six feet or one-point eight metres in diameter and the mechanism, originally having been clockwork and driven by weights and pendulum, was converted to electric drive around 1910. No “Makers Plate” could be found on the cast iron frame of mechanism to establish an exact date of manufacture, installation or conversion of the clock. The original pendulum is stored under the clock case but the weights are no longer there.

All the gears and bearings appear to be brass, the shafts are steel and the winding drums for the pendulum weights and striking mechanisms are still to be seen within the clock frame. The chiming mechanism is fitted with a “four-paddle type air governor” and the chime hammer is operated by a pull-wire running up through the top of the case to the hammer some twelve feet above the mechanism case. Each of the four shaftsClock Mechanism

The Clock Mechanism

which drive the clock hands is fitted with counter-balance weights to offset the weight of the hour and minute hands. Each face is made up of segments of white opaque glass fixed into the cast iron skeletons of the clock faces and behind each face is an electric light which is controlled by a time switch.

At one time, before electricity was available, the Clock Loft, and even the clock faces, may have been lit by gas lights as there is still a system of now isolated steel gas pipes under two of the four clock faces.

The clock mechanism is maintained by Dumbarton Council and is set to strike on the “hours” only, and only between the hours of 7.00am and 9.00pm.Names on the casing

Names on the casing

There are over one hundred names, most are decipherable and some with dates and trades, written on the casing boards and just a small number of these are listed below as they are written. These, presumably, were the names of the workers and maintenance people who have carried out work on the clock or others parts of the building over the years.

D Mc I 1973                                                              M.E.B. Stark 1976

Ian McGlashan                                                        J Black

W Wood 1941                                                           C Guthrie 1947

J Anderson 1906                                                     Davie Weir 1990 and 2006

Martin McAtear 1941                                              James McGeachan 8/3/39

H Grindley 1946                                                       Benjamin Cairns 25 March 1991 – Cleaning (Middle son of Rev John and Dr Liz Cairns)

Patrick Brown, Dumbarton Electric Co                      A Cooper, Dumbarton Electric Co

D Fleming, Watchmaker 20 Feb 1944                        H M Chalmers 3/10/31

Billy Johnston, Electrician 31/10/77                           M Daly 1937

P McAllister 1941                                                            J Bell, Electrician 1921

A Redmund, Steeplejack 20/9/1927                           A Gilchrist, Alexandria 25/3/29

Peter Graham, ESC Ltd Dumbarton 27/0/47           William Mallis, ESC Ltd Dumbarton 1938

David Adams 1932                                                            J Tennent, Slater 4 Sept 1925

R Marriot, Electric Works Dumbarton 25/3/1929    A Milby, ESC Ltd 1929

Maybe someone will recognise a name or one of them may even be a relative – if so, please let me know.

 The Bell

Access to the Bell and the internal structure of the Steeple is by a part vertical and part inclined steel ladder which, by a bit of crawling and some contortion, takes you out onto the bell support structure.

This Bell, from information in the “Outlook” magazine dated September 1990, was installed in 1855 after the two previous bells had cracked. The first was installed in 1841 and cracked in1848 and was replaced in 1853 and that bell also cracked in 1855 and was re-cast. The present Bell is about seven feet high and five feet over the outside diameter and is reputed to be the largest bell installed here, was cast by C G Mears of London and also installed by them.

The bell is fixed in its supporting frame and does not “swing” when rung – the bell rope is fixed to the bottom of the tongue, or clapper, which swings and strikes the inside of the bell when the rope is pulled down in the Upper Vestibule before the start of Church Services.

As mentioned previously, the clock hammer actually strikes the bell on the outside just above the bottom rim.

The height of the Bell mounting is actually level with the ventilation louvers above the clock faces as they are seen from the ground.

The Steeple

Above the Bell, the Steeple is actually hollow to very near the top.

There are more photos on the facebook post –