Towering challenge for Lancaster landmark

Lancaster Priory Church has launched a fundraising campaign to make essential repairs to its clock tower. LOUISE BRYNING reports...

By Gayle Rouncivell
Friday, 20th March 2020, 11:12 am
Updated Friday, 20th March 2020, 11:13 am

It’s time to give a helping hand to a Lancaster landmark which has towered proudly over the city for centuries.

Lancaster Priory Church has launched a fundraising campaign to make essential repairs to its clock tower.

Standing on a hill open to the elements of Morecambe Bay, the Grade 1 listed tower has succumbed to centuries of wind and driving rain and is in a poor state of repair.

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Lancaster Priory at sunset.

Mortar which binds the stonework together is breaking up and falling out and water is getting in through the cracks. The tower’s interior is damp and the frame from which the ten bells are suspended is rusting. The wooden window frames and louvres high on the tower are rotting too.

The necessary repairs will cost £110,000 which the Priory hopes to raise before another winter sets in.

Vicar of Lancaster, Canon Chris Newlands, said: “The Priory is an exceptional building inside and out, and important to the city and wider community. The tower is in a poor state and we are anxious to get the work done to avoid yet another damaging winter.”

Built in 1759, the Priory’s clock tower is one of the finest in the country and according to the renowned architectural and art historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, could ‘claim kinship with Tom Tower and All Souls, Oxford and the Wren churches.’

Severe erosion on the pinnacles of the Priory Church tower.

It houses some unusual features too.

Most churches have eight bells but the Priory has ten, the additional two being added in 2006 to complement those installed in 1885-6 and paid for by Lord Ashton.

Over the years, these bells have been rung for services and weddings. They have also heralded important national events and just as they celebrated the end of World War Two in 1945, they will mark the 75th anniversary of that occasion this May.

The belfry displays plaques commemorating special peals and photographs of past bellringing teams, including those ringers who lost their lives in World War One.

Vicar of Lancaster, Canon Chris Newlands outside Lancaster Priory Church.

However, this ringing chamber is very damp because rain has been getting through the window glazing and on occasions, ringing practice has been cancelled as the ropes have been soaked through.

“This is especially unfortunate as we are blessed with a committed team of ringers and an inspirational tower captain,” said Canon Newlands.

The tower also houses the clock which was probably installed at the same time as the bells and its chimes have marked the passage of time ever since for locals and visitors alike.

The chimes themselves were specially composed for the clock, possibly by the Priory’s choirmaster at the time.

Ageing mortar and precarious stone work at the top of the Priory Church tower.

Unfortunately, the clock chamber is now very damp and has affected the timepiece which is in poor condition.

And adorning the top of the tower is the Priory flagpole where often flags can be seen from across the city, fluttering in the breeze.

When it comes to flying flags, the Priory has to follow a strict protocol. The Duchy banner of the Queen, as Duke of Lancaster, is only flown for royal occasions and anniversaries; the Union

flag flies for occasions of national significance; the Lancaster Borough flag can be seen for Mayoral events and the flag of St George is flown for all other occasions.

Donations to Lancaster Priory Church Tower Appeal can be made at the church or via JustGiving on the Priory website: www.lancasterpriory.org or through Lancaster Priory Facebook.

People can also sponsor a stone for £10 in memory of a relative or friend. Names will be entered into a special book and sponsors will receive a certificate. Already 350 stones have been sponsored. Anyone interested can speak to a staff member at the church or email [email protected]

Gaping holes in the stone work of the Priory Church tower.
Fallen masonry.