8 – 12 February 2016 – Upton Hall (by Nick Sanders Hon MBHI)
Responding to a request from the BHI Museum Trust, nine members from all over Scotland formed a museum accreditation working party to assist with the identification and detailed documentation of artefacts in the museum collection at Upton Hall.
Ken Chapelle FBHI, Don Clark, Lucas Marijnissen MBHI, Duncan Massie, the two John Robertsons, Nick Sanders, Ashley Strachan and Jurgen Tubbecke stayed in Upton Hall and spent most of the week of 8 to 12 February studying a wide variety of clocks and watches, adding identification labels, completing written descriptions, noting dimensions and taking carefully numbered photographs of each object. Excellent progress was made and by the end of the week we were able to hand over a large pile of completed artefact description forms and associated photographic records to the volunteer staff who will continue with the documentation process.
I would certainly encourage other branches to offer assistance at Upton Hall in this way – there’s plenty more to do!
7 Nov 2015 – Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
11 members of the Branch met at the Resource Centre in the Nitshill area of Glasgow on a very wet Saturday morning. Following a brief introduction by our guide the group toured six out of the 17 purpose-built and environmentally controlled storage ‘pods’ which together hold around 1.4 million objects.
The Glasgow Museums Resource Centre is a modern, purpose-built facility that houses the museums’ collections when they are not on display at the nine individual museums around the city.
In most museums only a small proportion of objects are ever on display at any one time, the bulk of the collections being held in stores that are rarely accessible to the public. In Glasgow, however, the collection artefacts can be explored through a wide range of tours, talks and activities. Virtual tours are also available through the Resource Centre’s website (http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/GMRC/about/Pages/Digital-tour.aspx).
Following our tour the group drove across to the Burrell Collection Museum in Pollock Park for lunch after which we went to see the Jack clock, one of only two clocks that are on display at the Burrell museum. The clock gets its name from the carved and painted wooden figure that sits on top of the clock. On the hour the Jack figure lifts a hammer that strikes a large bell and on the quarters the figure uses its heels to ‘kick’ smaller bells. Ostensibly dated about 1600 the clock is probably much earlier as one with a similar movement, but without the figure, appears in the 15th century Almanus manuscript. Our thanks to Ken Chapelle for providing some interesting details about the clock and its restoration a few years ago. Ken also pointed out the only other clock currently on display at the Burrell which is a scaled down version of an 18th century longcase clock made by the London firm of Marwick Markham.
22 – 24 October 2014 – Upton Hall – Visit Report by Frank DiCarlo
Nine members met up at Edinburgh’s Waverly station for a first class trip to Newark, on East Coast Trains. If you have not tried the trip, I would recommend it for a relaxing way to travel.
Our minibus delivered us to Upton Hall, as arranged, to be welcomed by Zanna.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the building had not burned down, just a false alarm. However, Dudley and his team were taking the false alarm seriously as they had a professional in reviewing the alarm system, escape route integrity and fire protection of the building and exhibits.
(Editor’s Note: A few days prior to the visit the false alarm and Fire Brigade report had highlighted their records did not show that Upton Hall had accommodation – albeit local Fire Officers were fully aware. A whole new set of Health and Safety measures now required. Meantime accommodation is only possible with a night fire-watchman ….)
Dudley started the visit by welcoming us to the Hall, expressing a hope that other Branches will be tempted to follow our example. Briony gave us talk on safety during our stay and emphasised the precautions to be taken re the alarm system and evacuation routes. She then followed that by a tour of the building, describing its history and variety of residents. Alan Middleton gave us a tour of the library and the main collection. Jayne gave us an update on the new look HJ.
We then decamped to the local pub for a meal and sampled their beer, once or twice. However, on the way, Dudley gave us a brief tour of the site, describing those parts which were planned for renovation assuming the funding requested is awarded.
Next morning after a filling breakfast prepared by Ed and his assistant, our minibus arrived to convey us to the Usher Gallery in Lincoln, for a pre-arranged guided tour.
Dawn, a curator and our tour guide for the morning, talked us through the main collection of Horological interest. She started with a brief history of the benefactor of the museum ie James Usher. James Ward Usher joined his father in 1860 after leaving school and the business was renamed ‘Usher and Son’. He took over the business in 1874. He had a passion for collecting and built up a collection of ceramics, clocks and watches, coins, silver, enamels and miniatures.
Apart from being an avid collector James Ward Usher was also an astute businessman. The business and his collection grew as he constantly added to it. He was the main supplier of trophies in the area and for a period of time he obtained the sole rights to use the Lincoln Imp, a figure from Lincoln Cathedral, and sell Lincoln Imp jewellery.
He used the imp figure on pins, brooches, spoons and cuff-links. Some of the jewellery, such as the Lincoln Imp brooch, was set with precious stones and can be seen on display in the Usher Gallery.
The Lincoln Imp jewellery not only brought him success with regard to his business but fame too. For example letters would be addressed ‘To the silversmith who makes and sells the Lincoln Imp’. Many would reach him with references to the imp and one letter even reached his shop with just the word Lincoln and a drawing of the Lincoln Imp on the envelope.
James Ward Usher never married and devoted his life to collecting, travelling far in search of particular items to enhance his collection. He never sought public honours but was offered the position of Sheriff of Lincoln in 1916. In 1921 he died at the age of 76, and as was his wish he bequeathed to the City his collection of watches, miniatures, porcelain and silver. He also left a considerable amount of money for a gallery to be built in order to house his collection.
‘It has long been my desire and ambition to bequeath a considerable proportion of my life’s work in art to Lincoln, and I hope that it might form the nucleus of an art gallery and museum worthy of the city’.
Five years later the Usher Gallery was completed, designed by the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield R.A. The Usher Gallery, on Lindum Hill, was officially opened on the 25th May 1927 with a solid gold key by the Prince of Wales.
The highlight of this collection is the extremely fine collection of English, French and Swiss watches bequeathed by James Ward Usher. Many are made from precious metals and set with gemstones or contain exquisite enamels. The watches take various forms including pocket and ring watches, a calendar clock watch and a watch set into a snuff box.
The collection of longcase clocks includes rare examples by Lincolnshire clockmaker Robert Sutton, who made clocks with mainly wooden movements. These in particular were a fascination and they deserve an article in their own right. See the photographs of these two movements noticing in particular the wheel and pinion arrangement on one of them.
We were also pleased to see two Edinburgh maker clocks i.e. a Bryson precision striking clock circa 1880/1890 and a British balloon style spring alarm clock circa 1820, by Robert Green. The latter is the earliest spring clock in the collection.
Other makers represented include Thomas Tompion, Peter Garon, Hunter and Sons and many Lincolnshire makers including James Usher, John Stokeld and Thomas Scott.
There is also a collection of bracket and mantel clocks, including an interesting skeleton clock, and clocks by Thomas Mudge, John Roger Arnold and Benjamin Vulliamy.
The Roy Sargisson bequest of the late 1980s significantly increased the number of clocks in the collection. The collection also contains an orrery.
After a brief lunch at the Gallery, we travelled to the Newark Air Museum. Thinking about it after the visit, it was a reminder of how the British aviation business has changed, by necessity. Avro, Handley Page, Hawker, Hunting, Gloster, Blackburn, Avro, Armstrong Whitworth, de Havilland, English Electric, Westland, Supermarine, Vickers, all these names have disappeared consolidated in the main into BAE Systems.
The Avro Vulcan with its Blue Steel standoff Nuclear weapon, the Lightning, the sea Harrier are all stunning to view. For the three of us who were ex Ferranti employee’s, a bit of nostalgia when we saw the first Ferranti Air Intercept radar circa 1950 (for the Lightning) on display with its wired in valves and the Sea Harrier Blue Fox radar for the Harrier as used during the Falklands war.
However, back to Upton Hall, were Dudley gave us an overview of the Lottery Heritage fund application. That was followed by a presentation by David Poole the BHI’s Chief Examiner, on the DLC, exams and awards, its evolution and direction. Of particular interest were the example test pieces that we saw and how they mark them.
By chance we met Jan and Pat Wright preparing for the “Awards Education and New Members Day” weekend. Jan was in the process of assembling a German Riefler Electric clock circa 1920. The clock had been salvaged from a wet garage after 25 years and sold at auction. Jan has the task of restoring this for the new American owner.
The Riefler escapement is a mechanical escapement for precision pendulum clocks invented and patented by German instrument maker Sigmund Riefler in 1889. It was used in the astronomical regulator clocks made by his German firm Clemens Riefler from 1890 to 1965, which were perhaps the most accurate all-mechanical pendulum clocks made. His precision regulator clocks achieved accuracies of 10 milliseconds per day and were guaranteed to be within 30 milliseconds. With over 600 made, they were one of the most widely used astronomical regulators, and became the highest standard for timekeeping in the early 20th century.
The Riefler escapement was an improvement of the deadbeat escapement. In the deadbeat, the force to keep the pendulum swinging is applied by the teeth of the escape wheel sliding alternately against two angled pallets on arms attached to the pendulum. Therefore, slight variations in the friction of the pallets and in the torque from the escape wheel are passed on to the pendulum, disturbing its motion.
In the Riefler escapement, the energy required to keep the pendulum swinging is instead supplied by bending the short straight spring strip which suspends the pendulum. The upper end of the suspension spring is not attached to a fixed support as in most clocks, but instead is attached to a heavy metal bearer, which pivots on two aligned knife-edges on its underside which rest on flat agate plates. The bending point of the suspension spring is in alignment with the line of contact of the knife-edges. When the pendulum passes its bottom point, the escape wheel is unlocked and pushes the bearer, and the bearer pivots suddenly on its knife edges by a small angle, flexing the spring. The spring is bent by a small amount in addition to that caused by the swing of the pendulum, and thus provides the impulse for the next swing. So the suspension spring is used for two functions: suspending the pendulum and giving it impulse.
The escapement has better performance than the deadbeat because the force from the pallets, with its variability, is applied not to the pendulum but to the bearer. The escapement has no contact with the pendulum below the suspension spring. The pendulum is free of disturbance from the escape wheel for most of each swing and the only work it has to do is to unlock the escape wheel once per second. This operation is performed near the ideal place, at the centre of each swing.
The Riefler escape wheel and pallets are of a special design. There are actually two escape wheels mounted on the same shaft and two surfaces on each of the two pallet pins. The front locking wheel has forward pointing teeth rather like a dead-beat escapement, and catches on the flat surface of the pallet to lock the wheel. The rear impulse wheel has teeth with a sloping surface facing the direction of rotation. The round part of each pallet is acted upon by this surface to give the impulse.
Jan explained that the main challenge in setting up the clock, is that it has no references to align the agate pads relative to the frame or the knife edge. So we wished him well and then we all departed, with Jan and Pat, to the local pub for dinner and beer.
Jim Arnfield joined us later that evening at dinner, as he had arrived early (for the weekend events) to give us a tour of the clock and watch workshops on the Friday morning. Jim is the tutor in the workshops for courses on Cylinder Escapements, Polishing/Bluing/Silvering, Basic Clock 1 and 2, Lathes/Milling/Drilling, Antique Clock, Antique Watch, etc. In addition to this, he undertakes technical peer reviews of technical articles in HJ, and is also in the BHI Museum Trust and runs their Conservation Group.
Jim had brought along his latest electric clock, which has a dual pendulum, to be on show that weekend. The principle is that each pendulum “bob” is driven (impulses) and drives the opposite pendulum through two coils per pendulum. Two identical electric circuits are used to achieve that result.
After another filling breakfast next morning, while Nick (our Chairman) who has a specific interest in electric clocks assisted Jan, Jim gave a tour of the Clock and watch workshops pointing out the merits / demerits of each tool available.
Then at 11am after thanking Jim and Jan, Dudley, Alan, Briony, Maxine, Jayne and Zanna for hosting our visit and wishing them well with the weekend preparations, we took our departure. All in all a very worthwhile trip and one we would recommend to other Branches.
Branch Visit to Glasgow School of Art
In February 2014 forty five members and guests met in Glasgow city centre for a meeting at the School of Art about the recently restored electric clock system. We started with a fine Italian lunch at Sarti restaurant and then, suitably fortified, walked up Sauchiehall Street to the magnificent 1909 School of Art building, the masterpiece of Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In the well-equipped original lecture theatre our host Peter Trowles, Mackintosh Curator, welcomed us and outlined the history of the building and introduced its original impulse clock system which had fallen into disrepair.
Nick Sanders and Ken Chapelle FBHI then gave an illustrated talk covering their recent restoration of the system which used Synchronome impulse dial movements supplied by Dykes brothers in Glasgow with cases, dials and hands specially designed by Mackintosh. The master clock, an interesting early example with serial number 101, also has a special dial and hands and has now been running for over a year in the school’s furniture gallery. Following this we toured the college, seeing the various dials indicating the time in studios, the board room, the first floor museum space and the superb library. Finally we met for refreshments in the Mackintosh Room, a large drawing room with fine Arts and Crafts furniture and fittings, where we thanked our host and all agreed what an interesting day it had been.
Branch Visit to Exhibition – Hamilton & Inches, Edinburgh
We were delighted when Hamilton & Inches, George Street, Edinburgh, announced they were to host a Regulator Exhibition “on our patch”. Better still was the fact that Stephen Paterson, their Managing Director, offered a special showing for BHI members and friends, with a champagne reception and special tour of exhibits. So twenty Branch Members, along with seven guests, met at the Hamilton & Inches’ Showroom and were welcomed with champagne. At 11:00, members and guests were then given a tour of the interesting clocks in the exhibition and had the opportunity to admire them close up – with hoods off where possible.
The exhibition was also marking the global launch of a new maker of British precision regulators, Shropshire based Jonathan Flower Clocks. He had three long case precision regulators with movements that included a skeleton four-legged gravity, a skeleton dead beat escapement and a traditional month-going movement. Jonathan’s clocks incorporated some interesting modern materials, including hybrid ceramic bearings and super invar pendulum rods. Jonathan’s inspiration for these clocks was drawn from some of the antique regulators in his own collection. The “star” of the new clocks on show was a true collaboration between Hamilton & Inches and Jonathan Flower; a longcase regulator featuring a Jonathan Flower month-going movement with a Britannia silver dial crafted by Hamilton & Inches’ expert silversmiths in their workshop above the Edinburgh store. The dial bears the Hamilton & Inches name, their Royal Warrant, unique sponsor’s name as well as the British Standard Hallmarks.
In addition to the new clocks mentioned above, the exhibition brought together a number of older clocks that were also for sale. These included an 8-day astronomical regulator by Reid & Ault, Edinburgh; a James Condliff, Liverpool, regulator of 1832; a rare Timothy Brameld skeleton wall regulator. Other Edinburgh makers’ clocks in the exhibition were a rare Matheson of Leith two-day marine chronometer; a portable journeyman wall clock by James Milne & Son, circa 1840; a Kelvin & Hughes cased star globe used by mariners in conjunction with a sextant for night navigation; a Berg of Stockholm Tellurion; plus 8-day regulators by Dent and by Gabriel, both London.
Branch Visit to Switzerland
In October 2012, seven Branch members embarked on a three day trip to savour several Swiss horological attractions. As the result of personal contact, Vacheron Constantin made us very welcome and after welcome drinks/snacks gave an overview of the Company. One of their watchmakers from their high complications department, then took us through the factory. Dressed in dust coats and overshoes we saw close up the precise operations of a large number of the workforce, having one-on-one discussions with many of the specialists and seeing their operating tools and techniques first hand. Our guide kindly showed us the minute repeater he was working on – adding that he personally found the most difficult job was to tune the gongs!! We ended our tour in the guilloche, enamelling and gem setting department watching a dial being set with diamonds, followed by the operator showing examples of previous work.
The second day began at the museum at Neuchatel, home to three Jacquet-Droz automata and a small selection of other horological items. Next was a drive to La Chaux de Fonds at 1000M, home to the largest horological museum in the world. Our professional guide gave us a detailed tour of the museum which houses around 6,000 objects.
The morning of the final day included a visit to the Audemars Piguet museum at Le Brassus. A tour of four rooms of exhibits was followed by the chance to talk to the museum’s director and historian. With us all sat round his conference table he donned his white gloves and kept the group enthralled with his enormous knowledge of the history of watch making and producing a series of four trays of exquisite watches.
Branch Visit to London Horological Collections
In October 2011 seven branch members travelled from Scotland to meet on the first day at the Guildhall library to visit the Clockmakers’ Museum, holding the wonderful collection of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. After this, we travelled across London to the British Museum, home of the national collection of horology, where we were met by horological collections curator Paul Buck. Paul showed us many of the finest clocks in his care and gave us a look at some of his detailed work going on behind the scenes. On the second day we assembled in Kensington at the Science Museum, where curator Alison Boyle showed us round the ‘measuring time’ gallery as well as pointing out the other horological exhibits elsewhere in the museum. We walked across the road to lunch in the splendour of the Victoria and Albert Museum and then had the opportunity to view some of their extensive collection.