Hannah Ball’s Clock

Nominated by: Christine Clark

I would like to nominate Hannah Ball’s clock, which can be found in the Wesley church, Priory Road, High Wycombe.  This clock hung in the Methodist chapel that Hannah had built in 1779, after advice from John Wesley.  The clock was made by a local clockmaker called John Lee from High Wycombe.

John came from a family of clock makers in Islington, London.  He moved out to High Wycombe to have access to high quality wood and to be part of a thriving market town with plenty of trade between Oxford and London. 

The clock is a rather large wall mounted tavern clock, made of wood, painted black and decorated in chinoiserie style with gold paint.  The dial has painted roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes.  The hands are brass and the winding mechanism is a single key.  The clockface also has gold embellishments on the lower spandrels.  Beneath the clock face you can see the makers name, John Lee, in copperplate lettering and WYCOMBE below. It is a fine provincial clock but appears to have suffered from heat, probably caused by a domestic fire.  I am assured it still works and has rather a loud chime.

Why did Hannah Ball have such a clock installed in her chapel?

Well the Methodists were new in town and held open air services, she had heard John Wesley preaching in town.  At that time, she lived in Queens Square with her widowed brother, looking after his children.

Hannah and Wesley became friends, writing many letters to each other, and he advised her to set up a Sunday school.  This was to be the first in England, beginning in 1769.  She taught 30 to 40 children scripture on Sunday and alphabet reading and writing on Mondays.  This was long before education for children did became compulsory in 1870.

At that time Hannah attended the parish church of All Saints in High Wycombe.  But in 1779, with the help of Samuel Wells a Methodist preacher, Hannah opened the first Methodist chapel in High Wycombe.  The chapel had a teaching room attached, and this is where the clock was hung.  Hannah became a leading member of the Methodists in High Wycombe and spent a great deal of time supporting the poor and sick.

The fashion for Methodism became so popular in the area, that a much bigger church had to be built in 1866 in Priory Road.  When St Mary’s closed the clock was moved to the Wesley church and installed in the Hannah Ball room.

Hannah Ball was lauded as a Wycombe girl that launched a world-wide cause.  A plaque in Queens square was unveiled in 1996, commemorating Hannah Ball as the founder of Sunday schools.

I moved to High Wycombe in 1982 and used to meet in the Hannah Ball room.  I have always had a soft spot for her. 

Hannah Ball’s Clock was nominated by Christine Clark.