Last week clock conservator Duncan Greig visited Polesden Lacey to continue with the annual service, and I was keen for him to look at two clocks that I had encountered problems with.
The first of these was the glass-domed skeleton clock that dates from about 1810. This was donated to Polesden Lacey in 2010 and is currently on display in the Portico Bedroom. Although this clock is not original to the house, the 1942 probate inventory for Polesden Lacey records a clock in the Portico as also being French and decorated with white marble and ormolu cupids.
Skeleton clocks like this one are usually of high quality especially as every part of the clock is on display. The glass dome would have been made to fit each individual clock; however, in this case it is a replacement made in Belgium at a later date. The base too is a replacement, and Duncan suspects that the original base would have been ebonised to contrast with the white and gold details of the clock.
The dial of the clock helps us to identitfy when it was made; the Roman numerals are positioned vertically as opposed to at an angle and this was very poplar on clocks made during the Regency era.
The design of the pendulum is a sun motif, originally used on French clocks made during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) known as the ‘sun king’. It continued to be used as a motif during the reign of Louis XV.
We needed to replace the silk thread suspension from which the pendulum swings, as it had worn down over time and snapped, but Duncan was able to replace this successfully. The mechanism of the clock includes a fusee, a cone-shaped pulley, which improves time keeping by equalising the pull of the main spring barrel. This is quite unusual for a French clock and is more common in Germanic clocks of this era.
Duncan also worked on the Louis XVI ormolu mantle clock, located in the Gold Room, to correct a fault with the strike. This clock is fondly known as the ‘ting tang’ clock because of the sound it makes when it chimes on the half and quater hours. Have a listen the next time you are in the Gold Room!
If this has inspired you to learn more about the clocks in our collection, why not come and watch us wind the clocks every Wednesday from 12pm?
Read more about the annual servicing of our clocks here.