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Hickory Dickory Dock

August 23, 2012

Although I have a number of widely varying weekly tasks at Sunnycroft, one of my favourites is winding the historic clocks. Considering it is one of the smaller National Trust property Sunnycroft actually has over 30 clocks and watches in its collection. Thankfully I don’t have to wind all of them!

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Winding the Entrance Hall clock with the enormous key!

Four of the clocks in the house are running at present. They all have little nicknames and personalities based on their chimes and how well they keep time – I have become very protective of them over the years! Once a year a specialist conservator visits to check, maintain and service them. Each year she selects a different clock and takes it down to its component parts for a thorough clean – it’s astonishing that she knows exactly where all the tiny cogs go back!

 

As most of the clocks are eight-day clocks, winding takes place once a week on a Thursday morning. They are wound on the same day, ideally at the same time. I record any changes, and how well the clock is keeping time (how much time has been gained or lost since last week), and readjust them to the correct time.

 

My longest record for not having to adjust a clock was two months – I was very frustrated the first time it lost a minute and broke my streak! The clock in question is on the mantelpiece in the Billiard Room, and when the conservator first serviced it and got it ticking, she grimly said that “it’s not a healthy clock, it may not last the week”. I affectionately named it ‘The Consumptive Clock’ but over three years later it is still ticking away quite happily, and I should probably rename it “The Consistent Clock”!

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Offley Lander’s daughter Rachel remembers that the clocks would be wound on a Monday, and guests at Sunnycroft would find that by midweek they would become out of sync. The midnight chimes on Sunday would last for at least half an hour and disturb everybody. I can testify that no matter how carefully you adjust them, they’re determined not to chime simultaneously!

Eight of the clocks are longcase grandfather clocks – the impressive Staircase Hall actually houses four of them! Thomas Offley Lander, owner of Sunnycroft from 1943 to 1973, was a keen clock collector and would often try his hand at maintaining and repairing them. The photograph shows Offley on the lawn, being helped to repair the clock by his granddaughter Joanne.

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By Rebecca Farr, Assistant House and Visitor Services Manager

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