Together they bring unique character to a pretty corner of the village. But that is not all; they have an architectural and horological lineage that is of national importance beyond the merely scenic.
The Architect – Henry Astley Darbishire
The Victoria Memorial drinking fountain
The architect for the tower and the five cottages beneath it was one Henry Astley Darbishire. No local jobbing practitioner, he was one of the nation’s most important High Victorian architects. The picture show one of his many London monuments, a drinking fountain, in the full glory of Gothic Revival ornamentation.
The interesting thing about Darbishire, however, was that he was the “ must-have “ architect for philanthropic housing schemes. Very prestigious ones too. He was architect to the Peabody Trust for twenty one years from 1864, creating all those blocks of “ improved dwellings for the industrious classes”, which can still be seen in many areas of London . For these, Darbishire designed 5-story apartment blocks, often built around courtyards and covering large spaces. In the case of the Columbia Square Peabody estate, Darbishire built an adjoining covered market (image below) which aimed “to supply the surrounding poor with wholesome food at a fair rate”.
Columbia Square Market , Bethnal Green
Henry Astley Darbishire’s name and work lives on to this day with an important reminder coming only last year in 2015. Neil McLaughlin was shortlisted for the RIBA’s Stirling Prize with his reworking of an early Peabody estate in Shadwell, named Darbishire Place in Henry’s honour.
Henry Darbishire was commissioned by wealthy patrons: Miss (later Baroness,) Burdett-Coutts was perhaps his most generous one.
Miss (later Baroness,) Burdett-Coutts
Amongst other projects with Darbishire, she funded the prestigious Gothic Holly Village in Highgate, a picturesque development of villas set around a village-green open space, but with a very un-village-green entrance gate and gatehouse.
Holly Village, London
And she it was who commissioned the Peabody scheme for working –class housing and market at Columbia Square….and that Victorian Drinking Fountain!
The Patron – Sir Thomas Bazley
From huge London developments to the Hatherop Estate’s own philanthropic housing. In the tradition of the best of nineteenth century village squires, Thomas Bazley provided homes for his workers. The clock cottages are variously recorded as “ almshouses”, “retirement cottages”, and “workers’ cottages”, but whatever their intention , there’s no doubt that Eastleach’s Squire went for the very best in getting the famous Darbishire to design them (plus other buildings on the estate). And Darbishire did him proud. Those cottages were state of the art in the world of paternalistic provision. Each cottage had its traditional pig-sty, its own boiler house, a communal laundry and, of course, the elegant clocktower soaring above the roofs
Sir Thomas Bazley
And, happily for the village landscape, Bazely’s taste, or maybe his purse, reigned in the architect’s more extreme Gothic flourishes , and created a simple , utilitarian, (though some would say, austere) range of buildings. And in the case of the clocktower, a stylish landmark too.
The Clock Makers – Smith of Derby
The Eastleach clock had major maintenance and repairs in 2009, it was originally manufactured and put in place by one of the world’s most famous clock manufacturers, Smith of Derby.
This company has been building up its global reputation for creating and caring for the world’s great public clocks for over 150 years from 1856. Today, this prestigious family firm has a fifth generation to lead on clock installations throughout the Far and Middle East, Europe, Africa and the USA. This historic company is at the cutting edge of iconic and creative projects working with architects, engineers and artists.
Smith of Derby workshop
However, Smith of Derby has never worked solely on such large-scale clocks such as St Pauls Cathedral . Their more local installations grace towns and villages throughout the country.
Eastleach’s clock, designed for the Hatherop Estate in 1905, is just one example of many such local and public timepieces. The company’s ledgers record the ordering of “a flatbed mechanical clock with hour strikes and a dead beat pinwheel escapement”.
This beautifully engineered clock is still in good working order today. It relies on regular winding in the clock chamber, a space with rather daunting access, high up in the tower above the cottage below.
The clock’s strike is currently disabled, since its mechanism is a cause of disturbance to neighbours, but the mellow beat of the turning cogs of the timepiece, resonates like a comforting heartbeat through the whole building beneath.
Clock cottage in 2011. A happy home beneath the clock tower
Village Legends – Unanswered Questions
A village legend gives a romantic reason for the installation of the Eastleach clock. An estate agent’s details include the story:
“…the clock was given to the villagers by the local squire in recognition of the help they gave to his family following a tragic horse-drawn accident …”
It’s a colourful tale admittedly, Another version gives more details. It tells how the Squire’s sister had a nasty crash at the bottom of the Southrop lane as her chaise descended the steep hill far too quickly and ended in a painful heap at the corner. (This is still a dangerous spot today; horses often slide and stumble on the muddy slope and in recent years a cyclist had to be airlifted to hospital following a terrible skid on ice).
However, the grateful-Squire legend must have a bit more behind it than just a charming story.
Surely it’s no coincidence that the clock’s two dials face the village pub? Just where the Squire’s estate workers might need reminding that it was time for them to return to work in his fields?
Also, there is a mystery at the heart of all this. The cottages support the clocktower structurally, so seemingly must have been built at the same time. Dates for their construction are around the late 1860s-70s (and the accident to the Squire’s sister is said to be “ late in the nineteenth century”). Yet a plaque on the clock’s mechanism and an entry in Smith of Derby’s records state clearly that the clock dates from 1905 .
How is this discrepancy explained?
Was there a clocktower without a clock for twenty-odd years?
Was there an earlier clock?
Were the cottages in Clock Terrace built in two phases? Firstly a row of three and then the two western ones with the integrated clocktower?
Research to resolve this mystery is on-going….!
In the centre of this O S map of 1882, to the right of the “e” of “Turville” can be seen the row of Clock cottages. But is the little square on the corner an indication of the clock tower, or of the extension to # 43 , which became the village general stores?
Piece written by Jane Dewey, Clock Tower Cottage, Eastleach
The photos below by kind permission of Andy Hill