The new Clock House
The Chronological Tale of the Clock House
Located just a short distance from the floral clock is the Clock House, which houses the original clock mechanism. Following its reconstruction in 2023, the Clock House now proudly showcases the authentic clock movement. Notably, the delightful “cuckoo” feature, which had been inactive for the past four decades, has been meticulously restored. Visitors can now enjoy the charming sound of the “cuckoo” as it announces the hours and quarters.
Hidden low inside an old wooden hut, the clock movement was barely visible to the public. With the new Clock House, the fascinating mechanism will be fully seen. Each day the large weights (totalling over ¼ of a ton) have to be wound up. Every 20 seconds the underground shaft connecting to the floral clock face moves the hands with the slightest shudder. Every 15 minutes bellows are operated to create the cuckoo call in the organ pipes mounted at the top of the window.
“Meet you by the cuckoo” was frequently spoken 40 years ago. But the cuckoo no longer calls out the hours, and the old wooden hut that held the clock mechanism is rotting and unattractive.
Time to redesign and rebuild a Clock House that would protect and show off the clock mechanism and would be an architectural credit to the gardens.
Borrowing details from the nearby Bennett’s Shelter, the new building has a stout wooden frame, multi-pane windows, and a tiled roof with wide overhangs. It is strong enough to carry the heavy clock weights from the ceiling beams. Hardwood (Sapele) was selected for longevity. The roof uses second hand clay tiles, with clay “bonnet” hip tiles.
Construction was done by JAIC of Portland, and roofing by O’Brien. FOGG are deeply indebted to a local benefactor who has funded this project.
Clock Movement and Cuckoo
The clock has been going for 86 years, being maintained and wound daily in summer months by the gardeners. With a major overhaul now due, the entire mechanism h
as to be taken to pieces, cleaned, polished, and the frame powder coated. At the same time every piece is inspected for wear and damage. Corrosion has required the replacement of some shafts, and some bushes (bearings) have had to be re-machined. Even replacement nuts and bolts have to be made by hand as the old sizes are no longer available. The overhaul work will be completed this autumn 2023 by expert horologist Leon Harvey
The cuckoo sound (a hallmark of the Ritchie floral clocks) was made by leather bellows puffing air into a pair of organ pipes. The perished leather on the bellows has been replaced, and the squashed cuckoo pipes beaten back to shape. The pipes are mounted at the top of the window with 4 small holes to let the sound out to the outside.