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  Reader's letter | August 2009 | Clocks Magazine

Tabley turret

I thought your readers might be interested in my involvement with the repairs of the original Tabley Hall turret clock. Tabley Hall is in Cheshire and the grounds are owned by the Queen. 

The original Tabley Hall and Chapel was built about 1650 on an island surrounded by a lake, in the grounds of Tabley estate. In 1724 a tower was built to house a turret clock. However over the years the island slowly disappeared into the lake and the main building collapsed. The old clock must have fallen from a quite a large height and all the pieces were badly damaged and severely twisted.

Much of the house and equipment was rebuilt on dry land. The site for a new Chapel was re-consecrated in 1929, when the new Chapel was built it contained a new turret clock, which is working to this day. The old clock and many parts which were stored in the cellars of the New Tabley House, where they have remained for centuries until to recent times.

Tabley Hall came to my attention at the time I was repairing a range of different clocks to gather financial contributions for a new Church Hall in Bowdon, Cheshire. I was asked to look at the original Tabley Hall clock and get it going if possible. The managers of Tabley House hoped to install the working clock motor in the entrance hall of Tabley House, as a demonstration unit.

When I received the original clock it was very twisted and rusty, and after much searching of the Tabley Cellars we were able to gather together most of the main parts of the clock. These different components needed first of all sorting out and then all the individual pieces were straightened. Most of the components were very rusty and needed de-rusting by hand and machine.

Next these parts were painted with red lead, the fixed parts were then painted blue and the moving parts finished painted in red.

Following this the motor frame was assembled—this was initially very bent and needed considerable force to get it reasonably straight. Then I assembled and repaired the gears and other parts—some pieces had to be made by hand.

Next I made a wooden test frame to hold the motor and then assembled the motor on to the test frame. This involved making special heavy duty seatboard hooks and threading them to secure the motor to the frame. I also made some special steel plates to go under the motor frame to straighten it further.

Finally I spent three days testing and tuning motor and chimes in operation.

We found the clock ran for around 24 hours, and would therefore have needed winding in its original tower once a day. With the motor on the 7ft high wooden frame we have provided, it needs winding about every six hours.

It was quite an exciting experience to see this clock motor working for the first time in 200 years!

Dr Brian Thomas, UK

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