Eric marks 50 years of winding clock at historic village church

Eric Bauly has been winding the St Mary's church clock for 50 years this weekend

Eric Bauly has been winding the St Mary's church clock for 50 years this weekend - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

That’s dedication! Eric Bauly has completed an amazing 50 years winding the church clock in his home village, Mendlesham – with no plans to step down.

Eric’s brother, Brian, has been his understudy for those 50 years, stepping in whenever Eric is on holiday or unwell. 

Brian and Eric Bauly outside Mendlesham Church

Eric Bauly, right, has been winding St Mary's Church clock in Mendlesham for 50 years, with his brother Brian as stand-in. The brothers both live in their family farmhouse. - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

Eric, 74, said: “I never thought I would be doing it for this long. 
 
“When I took over, I said, ‘I’ll do it for a couple of years.’ But I suppose it has become a habit.”
 
He has to go up and down 42 steps each time he winds the clock, which is the only public clock in the village. A note in the tower shows exactly when he did it for the first time, 50 years ago today, on January 23, 1971.

Eric Bauly has been winding the clock at Mendlesham Church for 50 years

Eric Bauly has been winding the clock at Mendlesham Church for 50 years - Credit: Brian Bauly


The Church of St Mary is set to mark the occasion this weekend, thanking Eric for his service with a socially-distanced presentation by vicar Father Philip Gray after Sunday’s service.
 
The brothers, who share their family farmhouse, farmed together for many years and are now retired.
 
As well as farming, Eric was also an engineer specialising in classic cars, and his professional expertise has given him a special appreciation of the clock's design.

The clock on the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Mendlesham

The clock on the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Mendlesham - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

 
He said: “It is a quality piece of engineering. It was made in 1886 by clockmakers Smith of Derby. 
 
“We had to call them out for a repair a few years ago, but they said their records showed they had never been called out before that, for more than 100 years.” 
 
For the first 40 years, Eric wound up the clock once a week, but it is now losing 30 seconds a week, so he has changed to doing it twice a week. 

Brian Bauly outside Mendlesham Church

Brian Bauly has been his brother Eric's understudy. They have been winding the St Mary's church clock for 50 years this weekend - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant


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Brian added the clock can sometimes be affected by the weather. During very cold temperatures the hands can become frozen, with icicles forming. 

Eric said during the Second World War the clock had once been mentioned by Nazi propaganda broadcaster Lord Haw Haw in a radio broadcast. 

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“My aunt told me he said, ‘Someone needs to wind Mendlesham clock – it's 10 minutes slow. It wasn’t true, though!”
 
Anne Gray, wife of the vicar, described Eric's feat as a "labour of love" and said: “Under normal circumstances we would have had a celebration 'do' at church to mark the occasion.
  
“We are still planning to have a token presentation on Sunday at the end of the parish Mass, socially distanced, of course.” 

Although it is continuing public worship, the church is livestreaming its services on Facebook for the 75% of the congregation who are shielding. This means Eric's relations in Australia and friends in France should be able to join in virtually. 

Some of the workings of the clock at Mendlesham Church

Some of the workings of the clock at Mendlesham Church - Credit: Brian Bauly


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