ON Sunday, Aysgarth church celebrates a centenary of Cambridge chimes and the gift of precise timekeeping.

A special evensong will be held at 2.55 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the church clock. This will be followed by a bring and share supper and a concert.

A hundred years ago, few people carried accurate pocket watches with them - once a farmer from Walden was seen running for the train at Aysgarth station when he had an hour to spare. The church clock was not only large (more than 6ft in diameter) but also marked each quarter-hour with Cambridge chimes, so it served a wide area in mid-Wensleydale.

It was the gift of James Winn of West Burton and was made by William Potts of Leeds. Mr Winn's wife, Jane, cut the cord which held the pendulum just before 3pm on February 16 (Shrove Tuesday), 1904.

The dedication service had begun at 2.45 and during it, a special hymn was sung with the chorus in unison to the Cambridge chimes.

This hymn was written by the vicar, the Rev Fenwick Stow, and began "Hours are chiming, sweetly chiming, Bright the music of the bells." This and other music from the dedication will be included in evensong on Sunday.

In 1904, the service was just the beginning of the celebrations, even though it was a snowy day.

The granary at Yore Mills, which was owned by Mr Winn, was thrown open for a big party with music provided by West Burton Brass Band.

Between 300 and 400 people joined in, with everyone taking food or putting some money in the kitty.

Many then squeezed into the National School to enjoy a concert, and afterwards even more returned to Yore Mills for a dance.

Mr Winn was a churchwarden at that time and during the festivities spoke of his family's long connection with the church.

His uncle had been curate for five years and then vicar for 46 years. After his uncle's death he had lived in the parish for 30 years.

That family connection has continued especially as in 1924 Mr Winn made an endowment for the maintenance of the clock.

His daughter, Georgina, married Julian Ritchie and the Ritchie family has made generous and substantial contributions towards its upkeep, according to the church historians, Marian and John Kirby.

Whether the clock's chimes will be heard at 3pm on Sunday is not yet certain because it is under repair.

An electric winding mechanism was installed in 1985. Until then it was wound by hand, usually on a Monday. The longest-serving winder was Bob Tunstall, who started in 1906.

"Inside the wooden case around the mechanism are pencilled the names of the winders," recorded Mr Kirby. "The longest serving winder was R W (Bob) Tunstall from 1906. Bob was also sexton and verger. The pencil notes show his daughter, Mary, took over in 1964. Others of the family say they too helped. This would explain the undated pencil signature in the clock case: "Mary Tunstall aged 8 years".

The last two to wind the clock were the Rev Martin Brown and local farmer, David Wood.