THE Chancellor of the diocese of Lincoln refused to grant a faculty for the replacement of a church-tower-clock dial, which was more than 100 years old, with one made of glass-reinforced plastic (“GRP”), because that would be harmful to the historic and architectural interest of a Grade I listed church.
The church, St Guthlac’s, Market Deeping, is a Grade I listed building with phases from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The clock mechanism dates from 1765, and the clock face is more than 100 years old.
The DAC did not recommend the proposal, and Historic England did not support the petition for the faculty, because the tower clock was a “highly visible element of the church and provides a historic function . . . [and] contributes to the church’s significance and special interest”.
Historic England said that the loss of the existing dial would be harmful to the architectural and historic interest of the building through the loss of historic fabric, besides the loss of the original design intent and method of construction.
It also said that GRP was an inappropriate material because it would not have the appearance of a metal disc, especially after it had aged, and the longevity of GRP had not been proven, particularly in the exposed position in which the clock would be placed.
There was no suggestion that that the existing metal clock-dial had to be discarded because it was so badly worn, or in such disrepair that it was not possible to refresh it. Chancellor Mark Bishop said that the clock face did fall within the category contended for by Historic England. It must have been in place for at least 100 years, and probably longer.
It was an attractive clock face: the blue of the metal face provided the setting for the gold numerals and hands. It had been in place for sufficient time to contribute to St Guthlac’s special architectural or historic interest. To discard the existing clock face would be a loss, not just because the historic fabric would be lost, the Chancellor said, but also because the design that had been there for 100 years or so would be lost, too.
The harm done would be “very serious indeed” if the existing clock face was removed. The clock face in GRP would, over time, look different to the metal refurbished clock-face because it would not weather. The weathering process was “part of the melding of buildings and environment which we value, particularly in our Grade I listed buildings, and particularly with our churches”, the Chancellor said.
It was accepted that in 30 to 40 years’ time the PCC would need to replace the GRP clock face. The Chancellor was not persuaded that, over time, what the PCC gained from savings on maintenance of the clock face because it was made of GRP would be so great as to justify the expenditure on an entirely new face in GRP in 30 to 40 years.
The costs for the maintenance of the numerals and hands would continue, whether a GPR dial or metal dial was used.
Weighing all those matters, the Chancellor refused the faculty, but was willing to grant a faculty for the refurbishment or repair of the existing clock face.