'˜The heritage blew me away'

It's like going back in time. Wooden stairs and beams, three vintage metal bells struck by hammers and a clockwork mechanism dating back to the 1870s.

Saturday, 10th December 2016, 14:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 12:38 pm
The outside of the tower.

But this is no museum display. The bygone set up inside Alnwick’s Clock Tower comes in use each and every day; just as integral to the town in the 21st century as it was nearly 200 years ago.

And the man behind the operation is pensioner Bob Shepherd, who has the unusual and quirky job of keeping the clock ticking and the bells chiming on time.

The wooden stairs. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography

Three times a week, he clambers up the steps and winds the clock, using a handle to turn three wheels.

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In this high-tech age of all things digital, it is an extraordinary nod to the past; that equipment like this is still being used in 2016.

As Bob admits, there won’t be too many people aware of the fact that the time piece – located above the Town Hall in the Market Place – is still operated manually.

And he believes there aren’t many clocks left in Northumberland which require winding by hand.

One of the bells inside the clock tower. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography

It’s this rarity and heritage which makes 77-year-old Bob pleased to do what he does.

He said: “I have been doing it for the last 10 years or so and I am proud, it is a really good thing.

“I don’t think there’s many like this around, because most clocks are operated by electric nowadays.

“I do it three times a week, because doing it regularly makes the job easier.

A closer look at the machinery, which dates back to the Victorian era. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography

“A couple of the wheels are quite heavy. There are three different ones; one for the quarter-hour strike, one for the clock itself – which is quite easy – and one for the main chime, which is the hourly one.

“It usually takes around five to 10 minutes.”

The clock belongs to the Freemen of Alnwick and Bob, who lives on Alnwick Moor, is a member of the town’s ancient society.

He is the latest in a line of people to have wound the clock over the years.

Bob Shepherd winds the clock mechanism. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography

And once you’re inside the tower, nods to the past are everywhere.

A plate on the clock mechanism reads: ‘This clock with illuminated dials was erected AD 1876 in place of the old one AD 1771 at the sole expense of the Borough of Alnwick.’

Then there’s a pencil-written inscription on one of the walls stating: ‘Battlements. Tom Kelly, May 8th 1937, Coronation Day’.

The images of inside the tower were taken by Alnwick resident Alan Chapman, who earlier this year launched photography business, Captured Moments Wedding Photography.

He was amazed at what he saw.

“I was blown away by the heritage there,” he said.

One of the clock faces from inside the tower. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography

“I for one as living in Alnwick was unaware of this.

“The number of times I have walked across the cobbles in the Market Square and have been reminded of the time by those chimes.

“I’ve sometimes looked down at my digital watch unaware that the clock tower was run by a clockwork mechanism from a bygone era dating back to 1876, when things were made to last.

“The journey to the clock tower looks like it has been trodden many a time and no doubt by some characters including Bob.”

Clock-tower machinery. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
The wooden stairs. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
One of the bells inside the clock tower. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
A closer look at the machinery, which dates back to the Victorian era. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
Bob Shepherd winds the clock mechanism. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
One of the clock faces from inside the tower. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography
Clock-tower machinery. Picture by Captured Moments Wedding Photography