The 400-year-old clock at Clandon Park

The cockle-shell clock at Clandon Park

A rare clock dating back to the 1600s will chime once more at Clandon Park. The ‘cockle-shell’ clock has been restored by a specialist in clock conservation.

With the help of a horologist (otherwise known as a clock specialist) we’ve set a rare clock ticking again at Clandon Park. Over 400 years old, the ‘cockle-shell’ clock is telling the time again.

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The 400 year old clock at Clandon Park

A 400 year old clock is ticking again at Clandon Park. The clock was made for the Jacobean house which stood here before the Clandon Park we know today. It hasn’t told the time since before the fire but has now been restored.

The ‘cockle-shell’ clock gets its name from the ‘cockle-shell’ or scallop shell mark that is stamped on its internal iron frame. It was originally made for the previous Jacobean house which was demolished in the 1700s to create the Clandon Park we know today. The clock was saved from the old house and was installed in a new coach house designed by ‘Capability’ Brown in 1814.

After the National Trust was given Clandon Park the clock was put on display inside the house after being restored by the British Museum. Since 2001 the clock has lived in the visitor centre at Clandon Park, which was designed specially to house it.

Horologist Peter Watkinson working on the clock mechanism
The cockle-shell clock at Clandon Park
Horologist Peter Watkinson working on the clock mechanism

Today, as work continues on plans to remake Clandon Park after the devastating fire of 2015, the clock has been carefully restored. The clock had not ticked for many years before the fire at Clandon Park. While the clock mechanism was safe inside the visitor centre on the night of the fire, the pendulum was being stored inside the house awaiting further conservation work but was luckily found during the yearlong salvage process.

Clandon Park Curator Sophie Chessum said, ‘Hearing this wonderful old clock begin to tick-tock once more was a very special moment for me. It’s been a part of Clandon’s story for over four hundred years, and like the house itself, it’s a survivor! There are only a handful of these clocks in existence today, and Clandon’s cockle-shell clock feels somehow symbolic of the house’s resilience, and the many changes its been through.’

" Hearing this wonderful old clock begin to tick-tock once more was a very special moment for me. It’s been a part of Clandon’s story for over four hundred years, and like the house itself, it’s a survivor!"
- Sophie Chessum, Senior Project Curator

To restart the clock, horologist Peter Watkinson restored the fire-damaged pendulum so it could swing once again. The clock’s complex internal mechanism was re-tensioned and lubricated so it can run smoothly, and the clock face, which is painted with gold leaf, was polished and waxed. After restarting the clock, it must pass a series of precise timing checks and be constantly monitored.

Sophie said, ‘The pendulum’s shape was altered during the fire and now features some small dents; marks of its recent history and what it has seen. The sound the cockleshell clock makes as its pendulum swings back and forth is almost hypnotic. When you enter the visitor centre it’s sitting just above your head, so it’s soothing sounds will greet every visitor we welcome from now on.’