A vacation in Northland and an invitation from a staff member brought Mr Geoffrey Sykes to check out the 'turret' or 'tower' clocks in the Claphams National Clock Museum.
Mr Sykes is president of the Turret Clock Group, a branch of the Antiquarian Horological Society, and a leading expert on antique turret clocks. A turret or tower clock is found mainly in a tower above a cathedral or church or a significant city building such as a railway station or town hall. Some tower clocks were also known as stable clocks and could be seen above stables in country estates.
Originally the mechanism of each huge clock was mechanical, an example being the well loved ‘Big Ben’ in the Westminster Tower, a significant London landmark. The museum staff members were both enlightened and entertained by the expert’s informal talk as he examined the four turret clocks in the museum, raising many interesting points. For example, the oldest turret clock is German made, early 19th Century, with a ‘bird cage’ frame, made before cast iron was used. It has similar mechanism to the Salisbury Cathedral Clock of 13th Century England which is thought to be the oldest in England in working order.
Other museum turret clocks noted by Mr Sykes included a 19th century cast iron French clock, a Dutch cast iron clock from the 1921 and a small 1920’s turret clock, possibly a stable clock, all with interesting or unusual features.
Mr Sykes’ visit ended with a tour of the museum and the sincere thanks of the staff for his information and expertise.