11 November 2017 – Speaker Bruce Vickery, ‘Design of the Mk 1 Speaking Clock’ Bruce began by explaining that the story of the Mark 1 speaking clock is as much about the people involved as it is about the technology used. We were told about Ethel Cain ‘The Girl with the Golden Voice’ and Eugene Wender who invented the electro-optical device that was chosen to record and playback Ethel Cain’s voice. Both Cain and Wender felt that they should have received royalties for their involvement with the speaking clock.
Bruce outlined the technology used in the Mark 1 speaking clock and identified Eric Alfred Speight as probably being the clock’s chief designer, along with William Gordon Radley, almost certainly Speight’s line manager. Speight and Radley patented the pendulum they had designed to provide accurate and consistent timing for the clock mechanism.
An important aspect of Bruce’s work is to establish just how many Mark 1 speaking clocks were built and where they are now. It appears that five clocks were built, one prototype, clocks 1 and 2 for Holborn, and clocks 1 and 2 for Liverpool. The whereabouts of only three of these clocks is known. It is believed that the one at Upton Hall is Holborn clock 1, the Birmingham Museum of Technology has Liverpool clock 1, and the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh, has Liverpool clock 2.
This talk provided a useful overview of the technology used in the Mark 1 speaking clock and a rare insight into some of the people involved with it.
14 October 2017 – Speaker Sid Lines MBHI, ‘Screw Threads’
Sid took us through a brief history of screw threads, how they were made in the past and how they are made today. With the ultimate objective of repairing or replacing damaged clock screws he quickly moved on to the practicalities of identifying screw threads and replicating old screws if a correct like for like replacement is not available. This opened a lively, but interesting discussion on the different priorities of conservation versus restoration, clearly a topic that deserves to be covered at a future Branch meeting.
Sid had brought along a large number of vintage tools used in forming old screw threads and odd-sized taps. Many of these tools had to be refurbished before they could be used and Sid explained the techniques he uses to do this as well as how to make new taps. Included were many practical hints and tips drawn from Sid’s own considerable experience.
09 September 2017 – Speaker Richard Stuart, ‘Making the Magnificent and Elusive William Gray Lantern Clock’
Richard explained how his very longstanding interest in making a verge lantern clock came to fruition when he eventually bought a partially completed kit of a William Gray replica lantern clock, together with a CD ROM of the drawings for the missing parts. He soon found, however, that the kit was less complete than he thought, that several of the existing parts were defective or wrong, and that the ‘drawings’ were no more than scans of sketches on scraps of graph paper. Thus began a trail of detective work that would have impressed the great Conan Doyle himself.
Richard’s talk took us through the origins of the design of this clock and through the many individuals and companies involved in making the kits over the years. He also explained that many customers who had bought the kit soon found that when they had finished and assembled the clock it required further adjustment, stripping and cleaning before it would run.
This was a fascinating talk, as much for its insight into the trials and tribulations of the companies involved in making these replica clock kits, as for the details of the clock itself.
13 May 2017 – Speaker Michael Start, ‘A Talk on Automata’. Michael’s talk took place at the House of Automata Scotland, 38 Buckingham Terrace, EH4 3AP.
27 April 2017 – A guided tour of the clocks at Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire, KA18 2NJ.
8 April 2017 – Speaker Ian Shinnie, ‘Alexander Bain, His Clocks’. Known as ‘the father of electric clocks’ Bain was born on 10 October 1810 in Watten near Wick in the north east of Scotland, served an apprenticeship there and later worked in Edinburgh and London. His famous first patent for the electrically maintained pendulum clock was dated 1840 and he subsequently filed further patents on electric clocks, the electric telegraph and facsimile (fax) equipment.
Ian has studied all of the existing Bain electric pendulum clocks and has identified a total of nineteen so far. These he has grouped into three distinct periods. It was interesting to compare the technical details and case styles of all of these clocks together.
Sadly, despite his inventiveness, Bain eventually went bankrupt after protracted litigation and died in 1877. There is a memorial to him in Watten and fortunately his clocks live on and can be seen at the Science Museum, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow and one now running in the electric clock collection at Upton Hall.
11 March 2017 – Speaker Dr Roger Kinns, ‘The Story of Time Balls in New Zealand’. Roger, who is Treasurer of the Maudslay Society, has studied various time balls including those in London, Edinburgh and Deal, for which the apparatus were all supplied by Maudslay, Sons and Field. During a visit to new Zealand Roger saw the time ball in Christchurch but found that there was little information on other time balls in the country, so he set about to research the subject. It turns out that there were several: Wellington and Auckland 1864 (both eventually replaced by time lights), Dunedin (Port Chalmers) 1867, and Christchurch (Lyttelton) 1876.
Although supplied by Siemens Brothers in 1874, it seems that the Lyttelton time ball apparatus was in fact made by Maudslay in 1873, a replica of that supplied to Sydney.
Roger showed dramatic photographs of the handsome Christchurch time ball building, before and after the disastrous earthquakes of 2011 which caused its complete collapse, but gave the good news that the damaged mechanism and rather dented ball survived in a damaged but recoverable condition. We all hope that the Christchurch time ball can be rebuilt in the future.
11 February 2017 – Speaker Richard Thomson, ‘Making a 3D-Printed Flying Ball Clock’. Richard began by contrasting conventional subtractive machining, such as milling, against 3D printing which is an additive process, and explained how computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacture (CAM) procedures naturally led to 3D printing. He outlined the different types of 3D printing machine which differ greatly in precision and cost.
With laptop and projector Richard gave a live demonstration of CAD, quickly drawing and visualising a sample component in three dimensions, ready for the 3D printing process. He uses 3D printing to make prototype and small-batch mechanical parts and passed round a variety of samples, some of which were remarkably complicated and surprisingly strong. We inspected the flying-ball clock and gathered round to see the printer in operation. Richard made the clock as an initial exercise and it works well with no lubrication. It took the machine a week, working 24 hours a day, to print all the components. While 3D printing is generally a slow process, apparently a huge machine in China prints ten concrete houses a day!
14 January 2017, Branch AGM and ‘Bring & Discuss’.
With the AGM business quickly dealt with (the committee was re elected and the Branch is in a healthy financial position) the meeting got on with the main event, a bring-and-discuss session. As always a wide range of subjects was covered with several short presentations and demonstrations. These included:
- Progress on a large astronomical clock, now at an advanced stage.
- A tensator spring powering two automaton figures.
- A daisy-wheel motion-work model.
- A Japanese ‘karakuri’ automaton in the form of a tea-serving doll.
- A simple but ingenious hand-held motorised pin-chuck designed to assist pivot filing by those with limited hand function.
- A lathe steady for fine drilling.
- A detailed study of the wheel cutting in a skeleton clock.
- An early military airborne TV camera, found on eBay
- A fine collection of chronometers and watches.
- Movement stands made from sections of plastic pipe.
- Cleaning tarnished silver by immersion in hot baking soda solution in an aluminium tray.
- Measurements showing that even a 0.001inch sway could stop a long case clock.
- Finally a painted glass sign, about 20cm square, advertising membership of the Scottish Association of Watchmakers and Jewellers.
No one knew about this so can any reader possibly cast light on it?
10 December 2016, Ashley Strachan, ‘Edo Period Horological Journeys in Japan’
Keith Scobie-Youngs talk on ‘London Turret Clockmakers of the 18th Century’ will be re-scheduled for inclusion in the Branch’s 2017/18 programme.
12 November 2016, John Redfern of Redfern Animations, ‘Animating Time’. Branch members were delighted to welcome John Redfern who gave a spectacular talk entitled ‘Animating Time’. John is an experienced restorer of fine clocks and watches who has also developed advanced techniques of filming and animation. He began his talk by describing the need to produce accurate CAD records of his work on rare clocks, which then led him to rendering and animation. With his specially equipped film studio and workshops he has perfected methods of lighting, photography, filming and 3-D modelling which merge to produce spectacular moving images of his work. Using computer graphics he can peel away parts so others can be seen in motion and show the finest details which would otherwise be missed. In discussion John explained some of his lighting techniques and his special modelling software. If you missed the talk you can still see some of these amazing animations on John’s website http://redfernanimation.com/ which is certainly well worth a visit.
08 October 2016, Dr Bruce Vickery, Charles Piazzi Smyth’. Charles Piazzi Smyth was appointed Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1846, based at the Calton Hill Observatory. Born in Naples in 1819 he was called Piazzi after an Italian astronomer friend of his father. He was assistant astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope Observatory and became the Second Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1846 after the death of the first, Thomas James Henderson.
The principle purposes of the observatory on Calton Hill in Edinburgh were to produce and update celestial atlases and also to provide a time service for mariners. Initially Piazzi Smyth began to process and publish some 30,000 observations made by his predecessor but he also took on a large variety of other tasks including the first demonstration of Newton’s prediction that telescopes work better at high altitude to avoid some atmospheric effects, introduction of the Edinburgh time ball and time gun system, long term study of the sun’s motion, the analysis of meteorological observations and pyramidology. This involved detailed measurements of the Egyptian pyramids and the search for numerical coincidences which bizarrely he saw as scientific proof of the existence of God. He died in 1900 and is buried in Ripon in an appropriately pyramid-shaped tomb.
10 September 2016, John Hunter (Editor of Clocks Magazine). The talk given was ‘Clockmaking in Scotland’ not ‘Writing About Clocks’ as advertised. After a brief history of the publication and his involvement, John’s main subject was Clockmaking in Scotland 1462 to 1900. Among the early makers he covered were Robert Creitch of Leith, David Kay of Crail, William Smith, Nicholas Foucanote, Cornelius Yates, Humphry Mills (perhaps the first maker of domestic clocks in Scotland), John Smith of Pittenweem and Michael Shearer, the first Black Forest clockmaker to arrive in Scotland. This led us to the later makers James Ritchie and his son Andrew (hence James Ritchie &Son), Alexander Bain the pioneer of electric horology who sadly fell out with his rival Charles Wheatstone and eventually went bankrupt, and finally Frederick James Ritchie (James’ son) who further developed the electric clock including the sympathetic pendulum system in Edinburgh.
14 May 2016, Alan Midleton, BHI President’s Visit. Alan gave a talk entitled ‘A Horological Whodunnit’. Alan Midleton explained the analysis of his intriguing year-going longcase clock. This clock appeared in the 1982 Tom Robinson book ‘The Longcase Clock’ and subsequently came up for sale. The unusual movement is early, perhaps in the style of Ahasuerus Fromanteel (circa 1607 – 1693) but the case is later, married to the movement in the 1960s. The talk touched a huge range of subjects, including penny-whistle compensation, nuclear power, the design of hour-hand tails and the effects of spiders on clock performance! This was a really interesting talk and we look forward to Alan’s next visit – to the new Scotland Branch of the BHI!
Before the start of the usual proceedings a special Branch Committee meeting was held at which the results of the recent ballot of BHI East and West of Scotland Branch member was reviewed. Of the total membership in Scotland 57% voted in favour of forming a single Scotland Branch of the BHI. In fact, 99% of all votes received were in favour. The Branch Committee resolved to go ahead with the proposal and the Chairman was tasked with progressing this with Upton Hall.
9 Apr 2016, David Penney, ‘The Faking of English Watches’. Well known as an illustrator, writer, consultant and editor of Antiquarian Horology, David Penney described the faking of English watches as the ‘elephant in the room’ of horology.
Because of their popularity English and particularly London watches suffered from faking throughout the nineteenth century and large numbers of superficially English watches are not what they seem to be. The talk began with a definition of a fake, David’s favourite being ‘got up in order to deceive’. David went on to consider the signature on the dial of many watches in this light. He noted that the signature on most north American watches is usually the manufacturer’s while on English watches it is that of the retailer, but not normally put there to deceive. In the nineteenth century many so called Dutch fakes were made, and confusingly most of these were apparently made in Switzerland. Examples of these were provided, illustrated with David’s customary superb photographs, and illustrated a bewildering combination of cases, hallmarks, signatures and unconvincing copies of the English style which sold in large numbers abroad.
The talk was fascinating, quite disturbing and made the audience appreciate even more the attraction of collecting electric pendulum clocks!
12 Mar 2016, Michael Bennett-Levy, ‘Restoring the Grand Orrery from Dumfries House and Introduction to Engine and Ornamental Turning Lathes’. Michael’s talk and the tour of his workshops took place at his home near Musselburgh, from where he runs his ‘Early Technology’ business.
The video shown during the talk is available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7gtrtKPJVY)
For those of you who would like to know a little more about engine turning a DVD is available from BD Video Productions ‘Engine Turning by Martin Matthews’. (http://www.bdvideos.co.uk/site/)
13 Feb 2016, Ashley Strachan, ‘The spread of TIME Eastwards from the Babylonian Era’. The talk considered how the concept of time spread eastwards through India to China and on to Japan, with brief reference to its spread westwards to Europe and beyond. It covered early water clocks and incense clocks – two antique original examples of which were demonstrated. Sundials were not covered explicitly, being a subject well presented by others in the past. The talk concluded with a description and demonstration of a newly acquired Japanese koban dokei – an incense clock made in about 1850. Here a trail of aromatic incense burns over a period of twenty four hours and little flags are used as time markers. This was certainly the first time we have witnessed a demonstrator setting fire to his horological exhibit! ‘David Ramsay – an Early-17th Century Scottish Watchmaker’. Ashley also gave a brief talk about one of Scotland’s earliest watchmakers, examples of whose work may be found in several major museums around the world. One of David Ramsay’s watches, made for James VI/I, fetched a little under £1M at auction recently. The talk covered who David Ramsay was and how he came by his royal connections. He was also the first Master of the Clockmakers Company.
9 Jan 2016, AGM followed by ‘Bring and Discuss’
Key points arising from the AGM were as follows:
- Re-elected the existing branch committee. Ashley Strachan stood down as Secretary, a post he has performed so well over the years. Zen Chowaniec, presently Events Secretary, agreed to take on the office of Branch Secretary.
- The meeting heartily thanked Ashley for his hard work and wished him well with his Museum Trust work at Upton Hall.
- Prompted by two members from the West of Scotland, we noted that since the BHI East of Scotland Branch is the only active branch in Scotland, we might consider moving to a single BHI Scotland branch. The chairman undertook to explore this with the membership.
12 Dec 2015, Duncan Massie, ‘The Repair of a Turret Clock’
Three Tower Clocks The talk at our Branch meeting on the 12th December 2015, was given by our Branch member Duncan Massie. Before retiring, Duncan was a Director in an engineering company who specialised in the design and manufacture of Gearboxes. His background helped him immensely, when he acquired an interest in clocks and their restoration.
Tower Clock No.1 – This clock was installed in Hospitalfield House, near to Arbroath Abbey. The house was first built by the monks as a leprosy and plague hospice about 1325 i.e. about 5 years after the Declaration of Arbroath was written and signed at the nearby abbey. After the reformation the house went into private hands and was developed as an estate. The house and estate was purchased in the 1800’s by Patrick Allen Fraser, who was a local business man and artist. The house is now a trust to promote art in all of its forms.
Duncan’s daughter was married at the house and he restored the clock to ensure it was working on his daughter’s wedding day.
The clock and its tower had been neglected for many years. Access to the clock was up a spiral staircase. The clock service dial was engraved with the name, Simmons of Warwick 1858. Simmons was born 1809, and worked as a clockmaker from 1834 to 1880. He maintained and repaired clocks around Warwick from 1844 to 1880. He also supplied turret clocks for churches in Hampton Lucy 1855, Wesllesbourne 1857, St. Nicholas, Kenilworth 1865 and the church of Sherbourne 1864. He also supplied the clock (1859) to Fasque Estate House in Angus, which was the highland home of William Gladstone. That clock was a three train with chime and strike.
However, some details of the clock:-
The motion work was mounted on the back of the clock dial and the connecting rod to the clock is about 3 feet long.
The bell was cast in London and is inscribed C&G Mears, Founders 1853, and is mounted above the clock frame.
The pendulum is about 90 inches long, being 1 and a half second beat with a 40 pound bob.
a) Pin pallet, dead beat escapement with 60 teeth on the escape wheel. The pallets had to be replaced. Lantern pinions used throughout.
b) The bushes were screwed into the cast iron frame and about half of them had to be replaced. A method recommended by Chris McKay was used to line ream the new bushes. This method comprised of two drill chucks, mounted back to back, one holding a reamer, the other a guide bar.
c) The pallet shaft is positioned offset from the normal position i.e. on a tangent of the pallet wheel. The pallet arms were set at an angle to the pallet shaft, causing the pallet shaft to be out of balance. The effect of this was that when the crutch was impulsing the pendulum, one side gave a good push while the other hardly had any impact. An adjustable weight was added to the pallet shaft to compensate for this. This was a minimalist / removable modification.
The clock was satisfactorily refurbished and installed.
Tower Clock No.2 – Blackcraig castle is a typical 16th century tower house. It was the seat of the Baron of Balmachreuchie. The tower was extended and renovated in about 1856 by Patrick Allen Fraser as a summer house. The clock is another Simmons of Warwick dated 1850.
The house with its 50 acre estate was recently purchased and the house has undergone significant refurbishment. The clock, which had certainly not run since before 1935, was removed from the tower by the joiners, who unfortunately managed to drop the frame and break three pillars.
The clock has an anchor escapement (so it is not deadbeat and does not require maintaining power) with count wheel i.e. a lower cost clock for a summer house.
The barrels wooden cores were badly affected by woodworm and the wires so corroded that a disc grinder was used to remove the rusted cable.
The wooden pendulum was also broken when being removed (by the joiners). However, with a bit of effort, Gorilla glue and a brass plate, the 1 ½ inch diameter wooden rod was repaired i.e. spliced, and happily now supports the 40 pound bob.
While the scaffolding was in place to repair the roof, Duncan took the opportunity (over a couple of cold January days), to clean the slate dial and repaint the numerals. He used “Garry Blocks” i.e. abrasive pads, to clean the slate.
The final installation was interesting as the cable for the weights were routed up and over, before being routed down a “well” in the middle of the spiral staircase. The hammer cable (for the bell) was routed up above the clock to the bell position. The bell was another C&G Mears, of London.
The new owner was delighted to hear his clock chime (for the first time) at 7pm on a Sunday evening, while he was out admiring his fields.
Tower Clock No.3 – This is a job yet to be started and perhaps the subject of a future talk.
One of our very active members i.e. Finn Warholm, passed away early in 2015. Amongst Finn’s estate was a tower clock that he had rescued from a skip when he lived in Sussex. The clock came from a house that was being renovated and the new owners were not interested in the clock.
The clock is a J.W. Benson of London made about 1875.
Finn brought the clock to Scotland when he and Lyn moved here. Like most of us, Finn had a long list of jobs that he really should get around to one day, and this was one of them.
Duncan acquired the clock with the intention of restoring it and making it a “feature” in his conservatory.