Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:16 UK

Ladder danger brings clock change

St Michael's Church in Helston
St Michael's clock has been wound manually since it was installed in 1793

A church clock which has been wound manually since 1793 may have to be modified at a cost of £5,500 - because climbing an 8ft ladder is "dangerous".

The clock in the tower at St Michael's Church in Helston, Cornwall, is wound by a warden who climbs up the ladder.

But the church has been told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that the job could be too dangerous.

The Diocese of Truro said organisations had started pledging money for an automatic clock winder.

The clock is currently wound up manually three times a week.

If an insurance company... decides to warn churches that they can't going shinning up ladders any longer, the HSE will be very quick to step in
Jeremy Dowling
Diocese of Truro

But the role faces coming to an end because of advice the Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers has received from the (HSE) about unsupported ladders.

Although the HSE said it was just advice and it was down to local authorities to enforce health and safety in churches, diocese spokesman Jeremy Dowling said the advice meant churches had to reconsider their position.

He said: "All the HSE stuff that comes out is headed 'guidance notes'.

"But if you send guidance notes to an insurance company, and that company reads these things and decides to warn churches that they can't go shinning up ladders any longer, the HSE will be very quick to step in and prosecute corporate bodies if they haven't taken care of their employees or their volunteers.

"From that point of view, once a warning has been issued, the church can hardly ignore it."

Mr Dowling said it would cost between £4,000 and £5,500 to install such an automatic clock winder.

He said that local companies and councils had contacted St Michael's directly and had so far pledged £650 towards it.

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