Winding Lacock's courtyard clock

Clock face in the tall clock-tower at the west side of the courtyard at Lacock Abbey

Regular visitors to Lacock Abbey will be familiar with the striking clock tower in the abbey’s Tudor Courtyard.

The clock mechanism dates from 1880 and is gravity run; two weights slowly drop over 7/8 days, giving the mechanism the momentum to turn. The weight on the left controls the clock’s distinctive ‘dongs’ and the right weight controls the time. Every week the National Trust’s abbey team wind the weights back up and then check the time on the inner clock face, which is backwards so it matches the forward-facing exterior clock face. If the clock has lost time, they adjust it accordingly by winding the minute hand around. 

‘The clock holds its time very well,’ explains House Steward, Dave Hollis, ‘most weeks it only loses 1 minute – not bad for a 139 year old clock!’

Setting the time of the courtyard clock at Lacock
Setting the time of the courtyard clock at Lacock
Setting the time of the courtyard clock at Lacock

When it comes to the clocks going back, the team have to wind it through the full twelve hours, listening for the ‘dongs’ to make sure they have the right hour. Traditionally, the clock was set 5 minutes fast to ensure that the estate workers who lived in the village got to work on time and, today, the abbey team are careful to keep the tradition going.

‘When I first started working here I came up to wind the clock and saw it was running 5 minutes fast,’ says Dave, ‘thinking I was being very efficient, I wound it round to the exact time and merrily went back to work. As soon as the House Manager saw what I’d done, he sent me straight back up to fix it.’