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Lew's winding down after 30 years in role.

Byline: Neil McKay

LEW Parker has finally called time on a labour of love.

For 30 years the sprightly 70-year-old has mounted two flights of steep stairs before clambering into the bell tower of St Cuthbert's Church in Shotley Bridge, County Durham, three times a week to wind the mechanism which keeps the clock ticking.

Before Lew took on the job his father - the aptly named James Bell Parker - performed the role, so that the people of Shotley Bridge could set their watches by the sound of the church bells.

Lew, of Benfieldside Road, Shotley Bridge, explained: "There are three weights to wind up in the bell tower and the longer you leave it, the further down they are - and that can be quite strenuous.

"You have to be careful not to wind too hard, otherwise it could put the mechanism out of action. The pulleys need winding three times per week and it is quite a physical job. That is why I have decided to finally retire.

"Its like an old-fashioned car-starting handle and you have three separate mechanisms you have to wind up and it takes 140 winds to wind up all three - and each one is big, and I mean big."

Lew's "apprentice" - 63-year-old Richard Juinemann - will now take over responsibility for making sure the clock keeps to the right time.

It strikes with great accuracy on the quarter hour, culminating with the full peal on the hour.

St Cuthbert's vicar Martin Jackson joked: "When I became vicar here 16 years ago I stipulated that one duty I would not be performing would be as clock winder! But Lew has done a marvellous job. The position of this church, at the top of a hill above Shotley Bridge, means not many people actually see the clock but they certainly hear it.

"It is important that it rings the correct time. We could have had it converted to an electronic mechanism but that would have been extremely costly, I think we were once quoted over pounds 8,000, so we are grateful to people like Lew and Richard for their dedication."

Lew said the clock, which was installed in 1874 by public subscription, was once relied upon by the entire community to inform them of the correct time. "Nowadays I think it is a good thing that it is here to remind people that there is a church here.

"She's a lovely old lady, it has been a privilege to look after her."

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FAMILY TRADITION Lew's dad James Bell Parker who was the winder before Lew NO MORE WIND UPS Lew Parker who is retiring from winding the St Cuthbert's Church clock at Shotley Bridge after 30 years
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2011
Words:452
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