“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!


I Spy With My Little Eye…

A few months ago, one of the regular readers of the Nostell Priory Conservation Blog requested that we have a post focusing on the escutcheons and handles that are a feature of our furniture. Escutcheons are the metal fastenings which surround the keyhole of a door, for a combination of protection and/or decoration.

More than happy to oblige, I spent some time walking around Nostell and taking photographs of some of the more interesting examples. Most were supplied by Thomas Chippendale.

It’s amazing what you see when you take time to look!

Prizes if you can guess which pieces of furniture they are from! (No prizes really…)

The three below hail from the Crimson Bedroom. They are a great example of how something so small can be quite beautiful.


Carved brass escutcheon

Chinese cabinet

Chinese cabinet escutcheon

Drawer handle and keyhole

Ornate handle and escutcheon combination

From the chinoiserie furniture in the State Bedroom come the two examples below. The escutcheons are rather insignificant when you look at the lacquer decoration surrounding them. I particularly like the leopard/cheetah!

Chinoiserie furniture

Chinoiserie handle and escutcheon


Chinoiserie cheetah/leopard, and escutcheon

Delicate double round handles in the Saloon, no escutcheon around the lock. Maybe this drawer wasn’t used very often? It’s from a beautiful lady’s writing table.

Writing table

Lady’s Writing Table

I’m sure you can guess the object below…



Below is the super small door handle on the false door in the Library. It would have to be unnoticeable so that it wouldn’t detract from the overall effect when the disguised door was closed.

False door

Library false door handle

Also in the Library, the huge writing desk…

Writing desk

Chippendale writing desk in the Library

The lower cupboards around the room also have no escutcheon (see below). This could be so that visitors’ attentions focused on the wealth displayed in the shelves upon shelves of books, rather than on other little details.


Library cupboard

The Medal Cabinet, with a military row of vertical drawer handles:

Cabinet drawers

Medal Cabinet row of drawer handles

What’s this piece of furniture, with no escutcheon around the lock? The picture next to it might give you a clue…


John Harrison longcase clock

It’s the John Harrison longcase clock! John Harrison is the gentleman in the photo to the left of the clock. Did you guess correctly?

An absolutely gorgeous ecutcheon below, extremely elaborate and decorative!


Elaborate Chinese escutcheon

And finally, for something completely different…

LionRoar! This chap is carved around the very large keyhole of a wooden chest. The whole chest is intricately carved, interesting to examine, and very heavy to move! It dates from the late 17th century.

We hope you’ve enjoyed having a closer look at some of the details on the furniture here at Nostell. If you have any requests for future blog posts, please let us know and we’ll write one for you!

Spotlight on: Highlights of Nostell Priory

A few months ago saw the launch of the National Trust Collections website. The website holds details of almost every item within the National Trust and all of our properties. It means that you can see what treasures we hold in our properties from the comfort of your own homes!

Here’s the all important link: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/ You can also see highlights from individual properties, including Nostell. These ‘highlights’ are what are considered the foremost pieces in a property’s collection.

To see all of Nostell’s highlights together, follow this link: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/search/highlights/Nostell-Priory,-West-Yorkshire-(Accredited-Museum)/1

Can you guess what we’ve included in the highlights of Nostell Priory?

We have chosen a mix of paintings, furniture, and a cabinet. The highlights are listed below (in no particular order). If you click on each link it will take you to the web page for that particular object, so you can read about it in more detail. Don’t forget to vote in the poll at the bottom of the page for your favourite highlight!

1. The Hongs Bowl http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959642

Hongs Bowl

2. The Dolls’ House http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959710

Dolls’ House

3. Lady’s writing table http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959738

Lady’s writing table

4. Medal Cabinet http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959788

Medal cabinet

5. John Harrison clock http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959830

John Harrison clock

6. Barometer http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959831


7. Brueghel’s The Procession to Calvary http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/959460


8. Lockey’s Sir Thomas Moore and his Family http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960059


9. Hugh Douglas Hamilton’s Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Bt (1739 – 1785) and his Wife Sabine Louise d’Hervart (1734 -1798) in the Library at Nostell Priory http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960061

Hugh Douglas Hamilton

10. Hogarth’s Act 1, Scene 2 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/960074


Do you agree with our highlights? You may have your own favourites from Nostell that you would like to see included. Let us know! Vote in the poll below and find out if your favourite object is the same as everybody else!

So go on, check out the links to have a look at our collections online – it may inspire you to come and see the objects in real life!



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!