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Published: August 10th 2019
Today was a day of reflections. A funeral always brings out the old memories doesn't it? Memories of the person who has passed away and a realisation that relatives are getting fewer and farther between. After the funeral we made the short drive from the crematorium to the Museum of Timekeeping and on this journey my mind flitted back and forwards to school. Mr Hughes my old teacher was small with glasses. Everyone appeared small and wore glasses in the 1960's. He talked about "procrastination being the thief of time" He made me write this 100 times over. I cannot remember why he asked me to write this . I must have done something and I must have been wasting time. He commented on my silver brace which was trying its hardest to bridge the gap between my front two teeth. A gap wide enough to push a half a crown through. I hated the silver brace but hated the gap even more. He murdered my name saying it slowly elongating every syllable. Jen..........if ...........er he would say . He made the same effort to elongate the name Deborah . We said her name was pronounced Debra - he preferred to
make it longer Deb.....................o ..........ra. Funny how time sends you off in an odd direction .
We arrived at Upton Hall the bright canary yellow neo - classical home of the British Horological Society. It was about an hours drive from home and we arrived just in time for a spot of lunch. The small car park was unusually packed for such a unknown place. How come others knew of it when I had never heard of it? I must have found it by searching unusual places to visit in Nottinghamshire. We found the tiny café tucked away around the back and seated ourselves down with pot of leaf tea which would be sieved through a tea sieve and drunk out of china tea cups. An egg timer was put on the table set for the exact time the tea would take to brew. Lunch comprised of sausage, mash and peas for Glenn and a thick and creamy butternut squash soup with granary bread for me.
After our tea and lunch we headed in the direction of the hall whose origins were unknown. There was a house here way back in 1335 built by Robert Baggerton. By 1795
it was owned by Robert Smith Lord Carrington. However the present house whose hallway we were standing in as erected by Thomas Wright a very prominent rich member of a Nottingham banking family. Around us we could see the wealth and opulence of the house and hear the loud ticking and tocking of many clocks. Tempis Fugit and all that sort of stuff , we stopped to look at the first clock mechanism in the hallway. Fascinating to see the inner workings of a clock . By 1828 the house was designed in its present form by a W H Donthorne of London and it was him who gave it its neo - classical appearance with portico and domed ceilings letting the light in . It was a big rambling house with ten live in servants in 1841. Each room was filled with neo- classicism but it was the clocks that took centre stage . Each room displaying a different aspect of clocks and clockmaking.
Apparently our rich banker passed away in 1845 and the house changed hands and was owned by Rev Banks his son who didn't live there . In 1851 it was rented out to another
family member . By 1857 another very rich solicitor bought the property and set up his practice in the hall. It sold again in 1888 and his daughter was allowed to continue living there as much of the estate remained unsold. No -one wanted a big pile of house until around 1894 /1895. I don't know what was most fascinating - the history of the house or the clocks . The first room we entered was full of internal mechanisms without cases . The room guide wound one with an enormous ratchet for us to see it working . Each clock had a full description of the maker and the year it was made. We were standing in what was called the Electric Clock room which was jammed packed with turret clock mechanisms. The noise of the ticking was deafening. Across the room was the Speaking Clock and the Atomic Greenwich Meantime service machines. At 12 there was a demonstration of the speaking clock . How many people still use the speaking clock these days? Another one of those questions I never got the answer to. Not many I guess in this day and age of the telephone which is
clipped to the young and their eyes all the time.
Back we walked into the grand Hall where we saw the Andrew Lantern Clock one of the first recorded mechanical clocks made around 1570. Here we were treated to longcase clocks introduced into grand house in the 17th century. The dials showing the phases of the sun and the and moon and with dates. The clock cases as impressive as the clocks themselves . Clocks pendulums swung from side to side with a reassuring tick . The John Joyce regulator had pride of place , developed in 1715 to be accurate with rods of brass and steel. To the other side of this room were the watch workshops. Still being used to repair the nations clocks .
We were entering the next phase of the house where the new owner one John Warwick a director of a brewing concern bought the house and remodelled one wing and added a large ballroom (rather plain now ) and a stage. In 1936 the house changed hands again - this was becoming the norm for the house - bought by Sir Albert Ball as an investment property for his portfolio .
Our next stop was the watch room. This room was full of electric clocks from the 1940's onwards. The type of clocks we remembered on our grandparents walls, our own homes when we were young and in our adult life. The first electric clock was patented in 1842 by Scotsman Alexander Bain. It used electricity rather than weights and springs. Therewere display cases full of expensive wrist watches and forgeries , pocket watches , half hunters and full hunters, an Admiralty Deck Watch , alarm clocks and even the watch of Scott of the Antartic .
By the beginning of the war in 1939 the house was purchased by the religious order of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost but requisitioned as a school for partially sighted children evactuated from Sussex. After the war the children left and the fathers took up residence . How much history can you pack into a house ? How many different uses and different owners. They Fathers changed the layout ordering lecturing rooms for students, offices , a chapel and bedrooms together with the provision of tennis courts, cows were kept in the stable block , pigs in the fields together with
1500 chickens . The present owners the Horological Society bought the house in 1972 . They use it as a museum and place of safekeeping for the nations clocks and timepieces and a place for study. Last of all we walked through the blue corridor , more clocks and then upstairs where we had a guided tour of the absolutely useless wooden clock . Each component wood which contracts and changes shape due to humidity rendering it unsuitable for timekeeping. We saw the Millenium Clock and the water clock . The water clock was fascinating. We stood for a while watching the stream of water accurately filling the holding vessel and keeping time to perfection .
What a lovely day out . Something different . We have seen clocks around stately homes but this was the most comprehensive collection in the country. £5 each to go in but worth every penny.
So what did we learn? Clock stems from the Celtic word Clocca meaning a bell. Welsh still used cloch as the word for a bell to this day. The clock must have a dial and hands and tells the time by striking a bell or gong. The bells may strike the hour only as my skeleton clock does at home or it can strike the quarters , the half hours and the hours . More like my wooden clock on the wall of the lounge. A timepiece is what I have on my wrist . It does not sound the time . My watch is a portable timepiece to give it its full and proper name . Never knew that but I do now .
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