It had been a landmark that had helped mark the passing of time for more than a century.
But a health and safety ban put paid to the winding up of a Victorian clock which had been used by people in Brontë Country to set their watches since 1871.
However, worshippers at Patrick Brontë’s former church of St Michael and All Angels are celebrating after enough money has now been raised to bring the building up to the 21 century’s stringent safety regulations.
The congregation had been angered after the clock-winder was banned from the bell tower nearly a year ago. Retired police officer Jens Hislop was among the volunteers who kept the timepiece – which is older than most of the church - ticking.
The pensioner had been making the journey up the tower in Haworth in West Yorkshire two or three times a week for 23 years. But insurers ruled the step ladder the winders had used for decades was too risky for the 10ft ascent up to the winding platform.
Despite there being no accidents, Mr Hislop was ordered to down tools and left unwound, the clock hands ground to a halt at twenty past five in February last year. The parish was told £700 would have to be found from donations to make the platform safe before anyone could venture up there again.
Now a plea by the church’s congregation, who completed a £237,000 renovation of the building’s south roof in 2012, has resulted in a £700 windfall. The Haworth-based Brunswick Chapter of Freemasons obtained the cash from the First Grand Principal of Yorkshire West Riding’s Charitable Fund.
Reverend Peter Mayo-Smith, the Priest in Charge at Haworth, said: “The reason we could not wind the clock was nothing to do with the clock itself. It was wear and tear on the landing. The work has been done by a local joiner and the clock is keeping perfect time.
“We would have had to make an appeal. But because they came and very kindly gave us the donation they saved us the hassle of the fundraising. Local people are delighted it is back up and running and so am I. It is a significant landmark and it is nice to hear the chimes again.
“It is very hard to explain to visitors that this was a classic case of part of the building had become slightly unsafe. We had to bring it up to modern standards and it was money well spent. The access ladder was well beyond its sell-by date.
“The rails were broken and there was broken glass in the doors which protect the mechanism so we had to get it done. Our clock has been keeping the time for Haworth for many years and we wanted to make sure that people who volunteer to wind-up the clock are kept as safe as possible.
“Now we can look forward to seeing the historic clock tick on for many years. We thank Brunswick Chapter for coming to our aid.”
Chapter First Principal John Barnes added: “Some of our members noticed that the church clock had stopped and discovered why it was not being wound. We’ve been delighted to get a great public service re-started and that people in Haworth will always know the time again.”
Mr Hislop, 73, had branded the ban “barmy and crazy” and said things “had been going like clockwork until health and safety kicked in”.
He said: “The platform is only 10ft off the floor and the wooden step ladder was here when I started 23 years ago and is no different now to what it was then.”
The clock mechanism runs down in eight days if not kept fully wound. He was not aware there had been an accident in the tower since it was built in 1871. The winders had maintained the clock by going up the tower by a spiral staircase to the first floor where the bell chamber is.
They then placed the step ladder on the floor of the bell chamber and climbed up to the wooden winding platform with a crank handle to wind the chimes and the clock. Church officials were advised the ladder was too rickety and the worn-out platform bannisters needed replacing and extending from just over 2ft to more than 3.5ft. There were also gaps which people could slip through so a second rail was needed to avoid any mishaps.