The February meeting of the North Notts Association of National Trust Members was ‘The History of Bracket Clocks’ by Adrian Overton, who kept members enthralled all evening. Adrian is an horologist who repairs, services and restores clocks at his shop on Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield. He brought a number of English Bracket Clocks from different periods to demonstrate the changes in design and style.
Adrian started by telling the group how he started his 30 year career, becoming a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, before branching out and starting his own business. Restoration requires many skills; making replacement parts requires skills ranging from blacksmithing to precision machining in many materials, depending on how the clock was made.
He described the early development of clocks, from the invention of the spring in 1500, but clock speeds were variable as the spring wound down. The pendulum was introduced in 1658 and further developments improved the accuracy. Early clocks were very expensive and only the wealthy could afford them, and owners took them on their travels. Bracket clocks were developed to sit on a wall bracket, and had a handle for moving from room to room. Adrian demonstrated how the clocks mechanisms had developed and how the shape of the hands and case changed.
In 1685 many Huguenot clock makers came to Norfolk before moving to the small clock-making area of London. In the 19th century English hand-made bracket clock-making ceased when several German companies started mass-producing clocks which were significantly cheaper than hand-made clocks.
Members were intrigued to find that English-made clock cases were shipped empty on the tea ships to China, decorated in China (hence Chinoiserie), then filled with tea and shipped back to England.
A clock making apprentice needs seven years training to become a Freeman; Adrian’s current apprentice, who is in her fourth year, is the only female clock maker in the UK.
Find out more on the group’s web page, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/north-nottingham-association. Alternatively email NthNottsNTAssoc@gmail.com or follow them on Twitter, @NthNottsNTAssoc.