Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 5

Ticking, chiming, whirring, striking, winding – there is something about having the sound of clocks in a National Trust property which really brings it to life and creates atmosphere.

The clocks session on the conservation course we attended was brilliant – it succintly informed us how to care for, clean, wind, monitor, and move both small carriage clocks and grandiose longcase clocks. Clocks are difficult objects to work with because they are in continual use, which means that they are subjcet to continual wear and tear. It is important never to leave clock doors open or the winding keys in locks, as curious visitors may open doors and fiddle with the hands, possibly snapping the winding key too if it is very delicate.

Here’s a quick snippet of what we learnt:

This clock had a very extravagant sounding chime, and would be difficult to clean as it is highly ornate with lots of gilding.

Demonstrations of how to dismantle and move a longcase clock safely and correctly

The internal workings of a small carriage clock

Different sizes of coils and differnt types of winding keys for us to examine

At Nostell Priory we a very important clock. It’s a longcase clock which was made by John Harrison in 1717. John Harrison was born in 1693, the son of Nostell Priory’s estate carpenter. He was christened nearby at Wragby church. Harrison’s clock is extremely rare as all of the workings are made of wood. The movement, frame and wheels are oak, the pendulum is mahogany and the pinions are boxwood. Nostell’s clock is one of only three early longcase clocks made by Harrison which survive.

Nostell’s John Harrison longcase clock, dated 1717

In 2011 a senior specialist in horology from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich came to do some routine maintenance on Nostell’s John Harrison clock. (If you click on any of the photos below, they will direct you to our Flickr photo website, where there are many more photographs of the wonderful intricacies of the John Harrison clock as it was being taken apart and examined).

Initial inspection of the clock, without its headpiece – see the clock’s winder in the horologist’s hand.

Removing the dial reveals the calendar, signed and dated by Harrison in 1717. He designed the calendar to move forward at the second strike of twelve in a day rather than the standard 24 hour clockwork mechanism.

Despite many attempts over the centuries to use other materials catgut remains the most reliable cord to use for suspending the weights in longcase clocks.

Time is ticking on, and so I shall end this blog post and begin on the new one. We have many more posts for you to look forward to, including ones about the care of metalwork and stonework in historic houses. Hope to see you again soon!



7 thoughts on “Clocks

  1. Hi, great site especially enjoyed the Harrison Clock behind the scenes picks….early 1800’s clock which is made of wood and still working now that’s amazing! The priory has so many special items to see in one place, it really is a national collection. Well done everyone who looks after it and keep up the good work.

  2. Pingback: “My grandfather’s clock / Was too tall for the shelf / So it stood ninety years on the floor” | Nostell Priory Conservation Blog

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