Our Tower Clock

Everyone knows we have a clock tower, but who gives any thought to what we have for a tower clock? I wouldn’t be surprised if hardly more than a dozen people in our congregation have seen our tower clock, yet it is a marvel of reliability and longevity.

clock_towerAround the 1870’s it became a matter of civic pride in New England towns to have a public clock, and Woodstock was no exception. The Christian Church (now the Masonic Hall) installed a tower clock in 1880, and with the renovations financed by Frederick Billings our church followed suit in 1889 with a tower clock manufactured by E. Howard & Company of Boston.

Over 120 years later, that same Howard tower clock is daily ringing our bell on the hour and half hour, and moving the hands on our three clock faces. While many towers have been converted to electric clocks, there are estimated to be several thousand Howards, like ours, still in operation because they were so solidly built.

To get some perspective on the accompanying photo, the distance from the floor to the bevel gears that turn the clock faces is six feet. There is a 15 inch crank handle that fits into the square shafts of either side of the pendulum which raises weights on two windlasses, one for the clock and one for the bell mechanism.

Winding both windlasses is an aerobic workout, and it’s one of the custodian’s twice weekly duties. The bell mechanism is the larger and by far the harder windlass, which is not unreasonable when you realize that a hammer strikes the bell the number of every hour, plus one strike on the half-hour. (This presents an interesting clock_tower2bordermath problem: by my calculations it’s a total of 180 strikes in a 24 hour period.)

According to one website, the Howard clock pendulum swings 40 times a minute (not the 60, as you might think), which means 57,600 swings of the pendulum (and tick-tocks from the escapement) in a 24-hour period. Multiply 180 hammer strikes against the bell and 57,600 swings of a pendulum every day times 365 days times 120-plus years, and you get a sense that these clocks were made to last!

Many have come and gone since our tower clock was installed. When we look to the clock tower, let us remember that we do not know our time (Ecc. 9:12) so let us redeem the time (Eph. 5:16) and not be weary in well-doing for in due time we shall reap (Gal. 6:7).