The curious incident of the clock in the night-time

Published on 29 Jul 2017

by Anne Morris DHS

St Beuno’s is a house with a great many stories and secrets hidden away within its stone walls. One such mystery has recently come to light dating from the very earliest days of life here thanks to the intrepid researches of Sr Anne Morris deep in the darkest dustiest bowels of the Bellarmine Room, the location of some of the house ‘archives’... 

Drawn from an article penned in 1889 entitled ‘Bygone life and custom at St Beuno’s’ – read at the St Beuno’s Essay Society on October 26 of that year - it describes the activities of the ‘old clock in the gable’ which, for an understandably short period of time, once adorned the building. What follows is taken directly from St Beuno’s ‘Beadle’s Books’ (the ‘beadle’ being the community bookkeeper):

‘October 17, 1866. The clock just set up in the middle gable began to tell the time.

Saturday, October 20th. The clock in the gable began to strike.

Wednesday, 31st. The clock in the gable struck eighteen, and was gallantly arrested in its headlong course by Father Hawett at the peril of his life.

Friday, November 2nd. The dreadful clock has begun again, but under control.

Saturday, November 17th. The miserable clock in the gable again went wrong in the head, in consequence, as is supposed, of the late bad weather, and began again to strike wildly without provocation. Dr Hawett’s professional assistance has however procured it another lucid interval, and a brass chain has been sent for from Denbigh to restrain it from further outbreaks.’

Then, we are told, came a period of calm. In the ensuing May, however, we read:

‘Wednesday 27th. The big clock, having by this time discovered the absence of its old enemy and tamer, Father Hawett, at length took the bit into its mouth and went off to the tune of sixty-four at a go. It required all the authority of Father Rector himself to bring it to good order.’

Later on, we are assured, this clock was removed, however the mystery of its original location remains. All we know is that in 1889: ‘the irregular flooring of No. 66 in Attica still marks the place where the pendulum used to hang, its extremity swinging in the room below.’

In all likelihood, this is the present-day room No. 64 and the ‘gable’ referred to is that facing us in the photograph on the South Front of the building. We may never know, but listen out for the ghostly swing of the pendulum and the runaway chimes next time you are sleeping in Attica on a cold, moonless night…