The Tower



A tour of St John the Baptist

The Tower


Let us start our look at the building of St John’s near the entrance that most of us use – the west door in the tower but I am going to look at the outside first.

Although the tower is the youngest part of the building it is the most prominent. Gone are the days when we needed to use the foot scrapers before entering but low down on the right there is a strange arrow like mark on the stone buttress which is referred to as “BM83.1” on old large scale maps. What does this mark mean?

Above the door there are 3 little ledges. Did they ever support Statues? The tower was being built around the time of the Civil War when many statures of religious figures were taken down, so were ours ever installed?

Next you see the clock given by Mrs Ann Tilley in 1729 replacing an earlier clock. I do not know anything about Mrs Tilly except that she was clearly a faithful and generous lady who loved St John’s. More about Mrs Tilly on another occasion. Three times since 1991 the “FRIENDS” have contributed to changes or repairs to the clock including the silencing of the chimes at night.

Higher still is an older type of clock – there are two sundials, one above the door and one on the south side. The gnomons still cast a clear shadow but the carved numerals are faint so reading the time is difficult for they are rather high! One (unnamed) source says the date of  the sundials is 1741 – 12 years after Mrs Tilly’s clock and also that one on the west face is inscribed “Festina lente” (Master slowly) and the south face “venio ut fur” (I come as a thief).

At the top of the tower you may be able to see horizontal wires in the open spaces in the stonework, an extra safety precaution for anyone needing to be up there. The “FRIENDS” helped fund that recently. The flag pole is a mast of a yacht – the idea of the late Rory Page and right at the top is the cockerel weather vane with the date of completion of the tower cut out of his tail. Can you read it?

Edmund Prideaux