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The clock faces of the church of St George The Martyr.


By Richard Jones

At first glance, the tower of St George The Martyr looks like any other church tower.

Indeed, it has four sides, on each one of which is displayed a handsome clock face. One clock looks north, one looks south, one faces east, and one gazes west.

So far, so ordinary.

But, look again at the dial that's facing east and you'll notice that it differs from the other three in, if you'll pardon the pun, a rather striking way.

The other three clocks have white faces and are illuminated at night, whereas this one has a black face and isn't.

Why is this?

The honest truth is that nobody seems to be 100% certain.

The most popular story has to do with the church's rebuilding, which took place between 1734 and 1736.

The local residents were asked to contribute financially towards the new church and those who were living in each surrounding district dug deep into their pockets to pay for the construction - with the notable exception of the people of the district of Bermondsey, situated to the east of the church.

There are several explanations as to why the good folk of Bermondsey were either unwilling or unable to support the rebuilding. Some say they were too poor, some say they were too mean, whilst others maintain that they point blank refused to contribute on the, perfectly reasonable, grounds that they were dissenters and recusants.

Whatever their reasons, it was decided that, if the people of Bermondsey had no time for St George, then St George would, quite literally, have no time for the people of Bermondsey. Thus, the side of the tower that faced towards them was left blank. It seems that the church authorities later recanted and added a clock face on the side of the tower that faced to the east.

However, unwilling to completely let bygones be bygones, they coloured it black as a timely reproach.