“My grandfather’s clock / Was too tall for the shelf / So it stood ninety years on the floor”

For those of you who regularly read this conservation blog, you might remember that some time ago we posted a blog about clocks (you can find it here: https://nostellprioryconservation.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/clocks/). This focused on caring for clocks and Nostell’s John Harrison clock. We received a great deal of interest and emails about Nostell’s clocks, so we’ve decided to focus this week’s blog post about the other clocks at Nostell (not just the star of the show John Harrison!) A few weeks ago we also received a visit from one of the National Trust clock experts, so we’ve included photos from his visit too!

A Tour of Nostell’s Clocks

As visitors enter Nostell, they are greeted with the chime of a mid-Georgian oak longcase clock by George Etherington of London. It’s a functional clock, but due to it’s location near the front door is subject to vastly fluctuating temperature and humidity, and loses about five minutes of time each week.

Lower Hall clock

Once we enter the state rooms, the clocks become much grander. Below in the Crimson Bedroom clock, which is an empire style ormolu mantel clock, with the striking movement in a plinth case. It is accompanied by a boy or gardener (or a boy-gradener), and dates to 1800-1835.

Boy-gardener clock in the Crimson Bedroom

A rather stately-looking clock greets visitors in the Breakfast Room. It’s a George III bracket clock on low gilt bracket feet, made by Jump in London, dating to 1760-1820. The photograph below is deceptive, as it makes the clock look quite small but it is in fact rather large and very heavy!

George III bracket clock

 Our clock conservator is Elliott Nixon, and he comes to service Nostell’s clocks once a year to check that they are healthy and working correctly (some of our clocks don’t work, but we hope to get them working in the future).

On the photo below you can see him checking our regency period quarter chiming bracket clock, made by Barber & Whitwell, York, around 1800-1830.

Examining the bracket clock

Opening up the back of the clock reveals the mechanism. The back door is made out of glass – this is because the clock was made to sit in front of a mirror, so you could see the mechanism reflected in the mirror.

The decoration looks like a ghost!

The clock below is possibly my favourite inside Nostell – it’s an ebony mantel clock made by Cousens in London, around 1800-1825.

Ebony mantel clock

We also have some rather ornate clocks, such as the blue enamel clock below, possibly made in France.

Enamelled clock

Regulator clock

Tucked away in a corner is a longcase regulator clock, so called because it would have been the first clock that was wound each week, and was the clock that all of the other clocks were set to. Therefore, this is the clock that the servants would have used as they went about their daily business, making sure tasks got completed on time.

Last but not least is not strictly a clock, but a barometer, made out of tulipwood, dated to George III, with a case made by Thomas Chippendale, and the movement made by Justin Vulliamy (1712-1797). Nostell Priory’s accounts from October 1769 state that it is ‘a very neat case for a Barrometer made of fine tulip, and other woods and very rich carv’d ornaments Gilt in Burnish Gold’, and cost twenty five pounds to make.

Chippendale’s barometer

I hope we haven’t taken up too much of your time (sorry!) reading this blog post, and hope you’ve enjoyed a tour of Nostell’s clocks! There’s just one more clock in Nostell that I haven’t mentioned. It’s very small, doesn’t work, and lives in a house within the house. Any guesses? Next time you’re at Nostell, have a look for the miniature clock inside the Dolls’ House – the attention to detail is amazing!



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!