Centuries old giant clock working again at stately home near Sheffield after repairer gets things ticking again
Time had stood still at South Yorkshire’s 18th century stately home Wentworth Woodhouse. That was until clock repairer Andrew Bates got things ticking.
The giant, two-faced timepiece which marked the hours for nobles and workers alike from the mid 1700s will work again thanks to horologist Andrew, who repaired the clock mechanisms and hands free of charge.
The timepiece at Wentworth is the oldest Andrew has ever worked on. He discovered it was made in 1710 by Warwick master clockmaker Nicholas French and pre-dates home’s famed frontage, which took from 1730 and 1760 to build.
“I like to think the Marquess bought it on his travels and kept it until he found exactly the right place for it,” says Andrew, whose business Bygone Times is based in Elsecar Heritage Centre,
“It’s an honour to restore important items of local history and this is a beautifully made clock.
“Nicholas French put real care into it. There are some lovely flourishes on the mechanical pieces which he took the time to do, even though they would only ever be seen by another clock restorer.”
The clock stopped working in the 1950s and reputedly its four bells last chimed for the funeral of Peter the eight Earl Fitzwilliam. Peter died in a plane crash in 1948 with Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F Kennedy.
The clock is part of repairs made to the neglected Grade I listed mansion since a Preservation Trust took over in 2017.
“The only reason it wasn’t working was because it was very mucky and hadn’t been serviced since the 1950s. Plus one of the weights had been replaced with a car drum brake,” he said.
Each cast iron wheel, pinion and bell hammer has now been cleaned and repainted its original green colour to prevent rusting. Hammers operated by pins on a wheel now work again, chiming the bells every 15 minutes, and the huge hands have been re-gilded with real gold leaf, which does not tarnish over time.
Two new faces - each 52 inches in diameter - have been created by specialists Jericho Joinery, appointed by Donald Insall Associates, architects overseeing the North Pavilion project.
Harriet Sharman, a conservation specialist currently working with Pinnacle Conservation, gilded the numbers onto the clock faces and the outer rings.
It has also been a bit of a family affair, said Andrew. “My son Alex helped me get it back onto the tower. We love Wentworth Woodhouse and are all proud to have had an involvement.”
Andrew’s passion for repairing clocks began decades ago with a Napoleon’s hat’ mantel clock he bought at a car boot. He was a dental technician at the time and tried but failed to get it working.
He began collecting more clocks and trying to fix them. “After a few years I decided to train with the British Horological Institute near Newark and after getting my qualifications I set up the business. It’s very satisfying; there’s absolutely no clock you can’t get going.”