North Tawton residents have questioned whether the clock tower in the centre of the town was properly maintained after the roof skirt partially collapsed in September last year.

Despite assurance from the town council that the clock tower is inspected annually and has been repaired many times since it was built in the 1800s, residents have questioned why the clock tower’s roof skirt collapsed, which the council said was due to wood rot, if it was properly maintained.

Many have asked on social media why the roof canopy was allowed to fall into such disrepair, why insurance companies would not cover the cost and why taxpayers should be covering the shortfall when many are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

One resident said: “I would ask what proof does the council have that shows that the clocktower has been properly maintained, surely it should have been assesed prior to the recent painting. This would have validated an insurance claim and therefore not leaving the taxpayer liable. Imagine if the tower had collapsed on cars, schoolchildren or people waiting for the bus. With no insurance cover, I guess the council have dodged the bullet this time.”

The council has said that the rot was covered under layers of paint which was why the degradation of the wood was not spotted but some are now calling for a public inquiry into why the roof skirt was not inspected more thoroughly which might have prevented its collapse. These concerns follow the launch of North Tawton Town Council’s fundraising appeal which asks residents to contribute towards the cost of the repair.

Colin Lee, the chair of North Tawton Town Council, explained: “Specialist surveys revealed that the collapse was due to the failure of the decayed south-west strut which supported the tiled roof. The clock tower was insured but there were two restrictions to the cover. These being damage due to war or rot. Sadly, a claim cannot be made against the insurance as the damage was caused by decay.

“An Outline Schedule of Repairs has been prepared which includes numerous repairs to the structure which should stop future water ingress and preserve the clock.

“The total cost of the repairs is £30,000 but North Tawton Town Council have pledged £24,000 towards the repair costs which leaves a shortfall of £6,000.”

The council also hopes to raise at least £5,000 to pay for repairs to the lych gate to St Peter’s Church.

Cllr Lee added: “We are also acutely aware of the fact that the historic lych gate to St. Peter’s Church also needs some major work which will cost £10,000. The council has pledged £5,000 towards these repairs but this also means there is a shortfall of £5,000.”

To support the appeal, make a donation through the crowdfunding website JustGiving at or send a cheque to ‘North Tawton Town Council’ and post to Clock Tower Appeal, North Tawton Town Council, 14 The Square, North Tawton, EX20 2EP.

Cheque payers should write their name and address on the rear of the cheque or include a covering letter.