Penkridge Church Clock: a lesson from history

Littletons 2
The Littletons of Teddesley Hall
Always on my Mind
Tanyard Wedding
Jubilee, 1935
Reading Room
Penkridge Church Clock
Pub Landlords
Sydney Barnes
Four Crosses
Wyre Cottage
Fox Holes
Ivy House
Lord Byron
Christ's Church
Sandon Hall
Lady Lichfield
Buckingham Palace
Staffordshire Squires
Estate Workers
US Army
Stafford By-election


Say, is there Beauty yet to find ?

And Certainty ? and Quiet kind ?

Deep meadows yet, for to forget

The lies, and truths and pain ?...oh yet

Stands the Church clock at ten to three ?

And is there honey still for tea ?


The Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)


Rupert Brooke stopped the church clock at ten to three in his imagination. For him it was a metaphor for achieving a “sort of immortality” by living life to the full, loving life and beauty and worshipping Truth.

In Penkridge, in 2008, time was stopped, we are told, by the Health and Safety Executive who decided that the steps to the clock were too dangerous for the winders to climb. The HSE say “Our mission is to prevent death, injury and ill health in Great Britain’s workplaces."  Thus they too are striving for a kind of immortality, achieved through legislation and bureaucracy.


A past vicar of Penkridge, the Rev. Cecil Littleton would have rejected both of these attitudes. The coil of the clock snapped in 1886. He reported in the parish magazine,


“The Church Clock has been silent now for many weeks, causing much inconvenience to the village at. To provide a new weight and coil will cost a good deal. The clock goes and strikes for the benefit of the whole community who in this, if in nothing else, “take their time from the Church” and we think the whole community should be asked to contribute to the repair of what may be called common property and that the cost should not be defrayed out of the offertories.”


The combative attitude revealed in what should have been a neutral parish announcement was typical of the man. He did not mince his words. He rebuked his parishioners, saying,


“There are some who, like the Jews of old cry, “speak unto us smooth things” and who kick at anything like plain language. Without going out of our way, however, to give causeless offence, the clergy have a duty to perform and that is to preach the Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth.......”.


So, his message for Lent, 1886 was unrelenting,


“The parish seems sunk in vice and indifference. Few, comparatively speaking, avail themselves of the means of grace offered to them. While hundreds live in such carelessness and sin that it makes us tremble to think of the Eternal future which awaits them if so living, they die impertinent”.


When the clock was eventually repaired, the hymn he chose for the opening ceremony was,


 “Days and Moments quickly flying,

Speed us onward to the dead;

Soon may you and I be lying,

Each within his narrow bed”.


For the Rev. Littleton the church clock was a symbol of the relentless nature of time and the certainty of death with its threat of eternal damnation.


Thus we have three philosophies of life and we are fortunate to be free to choose between them.