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Set for the next 400 years

28 August 2008

Scotland’s oldest known working clock is now running again and has been graced with a new face thanks to major conservation work by Historic Scotland.

The restored clock is being put back into place tomorrow - Friday 29th August - on the front of the belltower of the 14th century parish church of St Bride’s in Douglas, Lanarkshire.  

The ancient time-piece dates back to 1565 and is said to have been a gift to the village of Douglas from Mary, Queen of Scots.  To reflect the Clan Douglas motto, Jamais Arriere, ‘never behind’, it is meant to strike three minutes before each hour. When its mechanism began to fail last year and it began to slow down, Historic Scotland - which cares for St Bride’s Church - arranged for specialist repair work to be carried out on the mechanism by long-established Edinburgh clockmakers James Ritchie and Son.

At the same time, Historic Scotland decided to replace the clock face which had suffered substantial decay and erosion caused by the weather. Skilled craftsmen and women from the Agency’s St Ann’s Croft An Righ workshop fashioned the replacement clock face from a teak-like hardwood, with the numerals and hands adorned with the finest gold leaf. The church’s weather vane has also been regilded by the team at Historic Scotland’s Stenhouse Conservation Centre.

Robert Duncan, Historic Scotland district works manager, said: “All the work was carried out using traditional, specialist techniques and authentic materials, and the new face is a superb piece of craftsmanship.  It has been made from a better quality, more durable material than that used the last time the face was replaced in the 1970s, so it should last for many decades to come. And the gilding work means that people will be able to use it more easily as the time can be seen much more clearly.”

Historic Scotland cultural resources advisor Adrian Cox said: “The St Bride’s clock is a remarkable time-piece which has continued to work for over 400 years – that’s a real testament to the craftsmanship of the 16th century.  And now, thanks to the dedication of 21st century craftsmen and women who have kept those traditional skills alive and carried out this wonderful restoration, it can keep working. I’m sure local people in Douglas, as well as visitors to the wonderful old parish church of St Bride’s, will be delighted to see the clock back in place, restored beautifully, and doing its job once again.”



Date:       Friday 29th August

At:           St Bride’s Church, Douglas, Lanarkshire
                Access on the A70 Lanark to Cumnock road, then follow signs.

Time:      From 9am to approximately 2pm – schedule as follows:

The clock, in a protective case, will be hoisted up scaffolding (9am – 9.30am), removed from the case (9.30am), and attached in position on the belltower (9.30am – 10am).  

The clock hands will then be re-attached and final adjustments are made (10am – 10.30am). The scaffolding will then be removed to provide unobstructed views of the clock in place (10.30am – 2pm).

Historic Scotland cultural resources advisor Adrian Cox and works manager Robert Duncan will be on site and available for photography and interviews.

Media representatives should make themselves known on site to Ellen Drummond Ferroni (07801 820757)


  • St Bride’s Church is one of the reminders of the past turbulent times of the Douglases, one of the most powerful families in the history of Scotland. Originally a church of substantial magnitude and importance, damage caused during the Wars of Independence as well as, in later years, by Oliver Cromwell’s troops took its toll.  The church was however still used until 1781, when it was mostly demolished leaving only the present chancel and ruined aisle.  Most of the stone from the ruins was used to build the existing Parish Church in Douglas.  Due to major repairs required especially to the clock and tower on St Bride’s Church, guardianship was handed over to state care in 1950.

  • The choir and south side of the nave remain of this late 14th-century parish church. The choir contains three canopied monuments to the Douglas family, including the tomb of Good Sir James, the Black Douglas knight who famously carried the heart of Robert The Bruce on Crusade. As well as housing the tombs of some of the most important members of the Black Douglases, the property also has exquisite stained glass windows, and a remarkable memorial to Lady Lucy Elizabeth Douglas-Home.  The bell tower with the 16th century clock is adjacent to the ruined Inglis aisle.  Standing 51 feet high it is in excellent condition.  The upper part is octagonal and the top forms the belfry with small arched windows.The bell is rung each Sunday prior to the church services of the present Parish Church which has no bell tower.

  • While there are many unsubstantiated claims that Mary, Queen of Scots visited certain towns and villages in Scotland, there is good reason to believe she did actually visit Douglas, as her husband, Lord Darnley, was the eldest son of Lady Margaret Douglas.  Lady Margaret’s parents owned the Douglas Castle and lands at that time.

  • Originally the St Bride’s Church clock bore the date of 1618, but during previous repair work it was found the style could be attributed to a much earlier date, and was consequently changed to 1565.  It is reputed to be the oldest working clock in Scotland, and is of great interest to horologists.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Executive charged with safeguarding the nation’s built heritage.  It is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

- ENDS -

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871