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The Scrap-Heap Clock

From American Horologist magazine, December 1938

The Scrap-Heap Clock
MARTHA E. BONHAM

For over four hundred years the plain village church at Wootton Rivers in Wiltshire, England, was without a clock. In 1911, the villagers wanted a clock to commemorate the coronation of George V, but they found that the cost would be too great for so small a congregation. Finally J. K. Sprat, who later became known as the wizard of Wootton Rivers because of his mechanical genius, said he would make a clock if he could have access to the scrap-heaps of the village.


He later put his experiences in building the clock in the following verse form:

A plain four-inch bed lathe, without a slide rest 
Was all the machinery I then possessed;
People gave me two large wheels nearly alike, 
One did for the going side-one for the strike. 
For all other wheels I made patterns of wood, 
Got then: cast in hard brass to make the job good.
The crudest contrivance (it still may be seen) 
I rigged up to act as wheel-cutting machine;
With flat files I made round cutlers of hard steel, 
To cut all the teeth in each pinion and wheel;
Made division plates the blank wheels for to space 
So that every tooth be exactly in place.
The steel pinion I made with spindles of bikes,
A sledge hammer hits the bell when it strikes.
On one of three dials is "Glory be to God," 
I used a broom handle for a pendulum rod.
My wife melted that and it was a hot job.
I made lots of tools by the aid of her fire, 
Tempered drills and pinions that I did require.
From April thirty to August thirty-one 
The clock was made, fixed up, and everything done.

Twenty-seven years have passed since the clock was installed, but it has never been necessary to alter it in any way. The monarch in whose honor the clock was built, died after a long reign, the clock-maker lies buried in the churchyard below, but the hands of the scrapheap clock still spell out, "Glory be to God," and the chimes proclaim each hour of the day. 


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