If I could turn back time

Rye moved back to Greenwich Mean Time before the rest of the UK at the weekend

Last weekend the clocks across the UK went back an hour when British Summer Time officially ended at 2am on Sunday October 25. But Rye always leads the pack. The pendulum of St Mary’s church clock was stopped by Church Surveyor John Gurney at 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon and then was restarted by Deputy Verger Tony Dagleas an hour later.

This custom brings back echoes of Tilling, the town in EF Benson’s “Mapp and Lucia” books (written in Rye), as many characters refused to observe the new-fangled British Summer Time, preferring instead to use “God’s time”. The vicar in the novels even preached a sermon about it.

St Mary's Church clock pendulum
St Mary’s Church clock pendulum

[Editor’s note: St Mary’s clock is believed to be one of the oldest church turret clocks still in working order and was built by Huguenot Lewys Billiard in 1561-62. The pendulum was a much later addition. The present exterior clock face dates from 1760.

Stopping the ancient clock for one hour, or alternatively winding it forward for 11 hours, is time consuming, and wandering around the church, or up the tower, to do it at 2am in the middle of the night is not encouraged . . . but doing it the following morning can cause confusion.

Hearsay has it that one past vicar was an hour late for the 8am Sunday service. Hence the early time change as darkness fell, just before the church shut its doors for its Saturday winter closing time.]




Photos: Sandra Lanigan & John Minter